By Jake McCollum
Fort Knox (June 30, 2015) –In the darkness before dawn, 2nd Platoon of Bravo Company crept into position, waiting to link up with native forces before proceeding to its objective. Tasked with searching a small village believed to be housing an IED manufacturer, 2nd Platoon had orders to conduct a ‘soft knock’ – knock on doors and ask permission to search the villagers’ homes. Finally, at 06:20, the native policemen arrived and 2nd Platoon moved out.
An hour later, they took first contact.
2nd Platoon was in the middle of their third day in the field, undergoing MCLX, or Mission Command Leadership Exercise. The eight day training event is one of the last events of the Cadet Leader’s Course, designed to give those going through it the closest experience to combat possible. While not every 2nd Lt. that commissions from this platoon will be an Infantry or Combat Arms officer, MCLX teaches cadets more than just the basics of warfare.
“This teaches you teamwork,” said Maj. Tim Murphy, the Officer in Charge of that day’s mission. “The goal is for cadets in charge to have command and control and make timely decisions…these cadets are not afraid to make decisions and they take everything into effect…I’ve been very impressed.”
According to Murphy, “injects”, or roleplayers, make the mission more complicated by acting as enemy forces, civilians on the battlefield, or even media that the platoon has to protect.
When 2nd Platoon came upon the village they were greeted with an ambush. Gunfire filled the air as cadets rushed to clear the buildings and protect the civilians in the village. When the fighting was over, three of the enemy played dead while cadets searched the village for intelligence and evidence of IED production.
Armed with MILES systems, the cadets utilized real weapons including the M-16 rifle, M-249 SAW and M-240 Bravo machine gun firing blanks with devices fixed to their muzzles in what was essentially the most adrenaline pumping laser-tag game of their lives. Cadet Josh Vanlaai from Norwich University, armed with an M-249, held off enemy Quick Reaction Forces with several bursts of automatic fire.
“This is one of the closest experiences, as cadets, to the real thing,” said Vanlaai, who wants to be an Infantry Officer. “It’s a little different from what I expected but in a good way…I think it was a pretty fun day.”
“I think this is the most challenging training I’ve been through so far,” said Cadet Wilfrid Muiche from DeVry University. “They want to mix the leadership skill…with technical and tactical experience.”
MCLX is broken into three phases. Combined Arms Maneuver is the first phase, where cadets take part in simulated force-on-force battles. Wide Area Security Patrol is the second phase and teaches cadets how to patrol and operate during security missions. The final phase is Out of Sector Security, a thirty hour culminating event, where cadets are forced to apply all they have learned in a single exercise.
With six more days in the field, 2nd Platoon looks forward to completing MCLX and graduating from CLC, getting one step closer to earning their gold bar.
“This is hard – very, very hard… you guys did great,” Murphy said when he debriefed 2nd Platoon after the mission was over. “I truly see a bunch of great future 2nd. Lt.’s here.”