By DeJanay Booth, photograph by Mike Galloucis
On June 22, I followed behind them. The objective of their training: work together, leading and following and defeat the enemy. The weapons were loaded with blanks but the cadets held them tightly.
Helmets were on their heads. Large backpacks tightly secured on their bodies. They were ready for “combat.”
“Line it up,” a cadet said.
At 8:30 a.m., cadets lined up for Mission Command Leadership Exercise (MCLX), marching along the dirt road. A cadet to my right stopped in his tracks, kneeled down and secured the area. I looked up the road and saw another giving the signal to stand guard.
Within minutes, we pushed through the trees. Bugs scattered over the wet ground. Wind blew through the trees, throwing droplets of water from above.
Never did I imagine standing by cadets in battle. The rain from the night before did not help the walk through the woods. Mud stuck to my boots like quicksand, pulling my feet deeper.
“Secure the area,” a cadet ordered. “First platoon, move up.”
We stopped and they scattered in the quarter, patrolling it. One cadet sat on the ground gathering information through a telephone.
What were these cadets learning?
“We need to work as a team to get things done. It’s not always about tactics but leadership,” said Cadet Olivia Anderson from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
What the cadets are learning applies to their current setting in Cadet Summer Training. However, it is preparing them for future battles as a soldier and leader rather than a trainee.
“[This experience can] help me adapt to new situations,” said Cadet Timothy Ross from Texas A&M University in College Station. “The real world is unpredictable.”
The cadets reached the end of the trail. In front of them stood a replica of a village. Danger lurked ahead.
Suddenly shots fired, sounding like thousands of firecrackers. At their mark, a few cadets ran through the village, opening fire. After five minutes the sounds died out. The soldiers scanned the village, checking each wooded building.
“Go go go,” said a cadet as he and a few others hurried from one building to the next. These cadets did not know about every angle thrown at them, but they prepared for the unexpected as a team.