Platoon Operations tests leadership skills, ability to work under pressure
Story by Kayla Boyd
Feature Photo by Harrison Hill
They emerged onto the gravel road from the tree line. Two Cadets, then four. Before long, and entire platoon had surfaced and taken over the lane. Making their descent on the enemy base, several squads dropped to the ground to act as security while others advanced.
Bravo Company of 6th Regiment of Leader Development and Assessment Course planned and executed a raid during Platoon Operations on the morning of July 10. The Cadets sought out a high-value target among what they believed to be Spanish-speaking civilians with Muslim values.
Cadet Tom Picciano, a third-year ROTC student at Arizona State University in Phoenix, acted as the platoon leader. He and his squad leaders planned the operation to employ key leader engagement, with a contingency option to conduct a raid if conditions changed.
“We were briefed there was a village and for civilian consideration, they didn’t want any collateral damage,” Picciano said. “So we had to take that into consideration.”
By the time the platoon neared the objective, Picciano was being bombarded with information.
“There was a lot of information coming in and out of my head, a lot of things that higher [headquarters] wanted from me but the real key point was my squad leaders,” Picciano said. “They executed perfectly. When I was calling out things, they were getting them to me quickly.”
One minute, Picciano and a fellow Cadet were having a casual conversation with the village elders. The next, shots were fired, additional enemy forces appeared, and one tried to run. Chaos ensued in a matter of seconds.
Eventually, the Cadets gained control of the base and held the high-value target captive. An air of calm returned to the objective. Before long, though, an artillery simulator exploded, interrupting the lull in activity.
Before the Cadets realized what had happened, their high-value target was sprinting toward the tree line near the objective.
Instead of shooting at the escaped man, three Cadets followed on foot and tackled him. He was then pronounced dead.
Platoon Tactics Noncommissioned Officer SFC Randall Edmonson evaluated Cadets and was generally pleased with the execution.
“I actually thought they did very well performing the scenario,” Edmonson said. “These are tough situations that we put these Cadets in and it really teaches them to think on their toes.”
Platoon Operations acts as a culminating event, bringing together everything the Cadets learned and practiced during the past month. Cultural awareness, a class that emphasized key leader engagement, was the most recent, and possibly most important, scenario in the Platoon Operations training.
“Some of these Cadets have never really experienced an environment like this where [they had] cultural effectiveness and communicated with people from another language or ethnicity or cultural background,” Edmonson said. “So it really kinda tests their ability to do that and I thought they performed really well.”