Cadets develop basic tactical, confidence and leadership skills at Fall Field Training Exercise
By: CDT Karen Berardi
The 60-foot rappel tower at Fort McCoy near Sparta, Wisconsin has always intimidated Cadets upon first sight. In comparison to the 17-foot practice tower and the 37-foot tower that stands beside it, the tallest of the three looms over those who enter the site. Many, especially those afraid of heights, gaze up at the top, weary of their fate when they are made to come down on a rope harness they make themselves.
“I wish I could have gone again,” freshmen Kyle Cooke said after reaching the bottom and being told to hand off his “Swiss seat” or hand-made harness to another Cadet.
Cook, along with more than 100 other Cadets and over 20 Marine midshipmen, was able to rappel and learn other basic Army skills at this fall’s field training exercise (FTX) on September 21 to 23, 2007. The FTX consisted of training in day and night land navigation, hand grenades, rope bridges and finally, rappelling.
The training exercise began Friday afternoon when the battalion departed in charter buses and arrived at Fort McCoy in the early evening. That night, the underclassmen and upperclassmen were split up. The underclassmen spent the evening learning more in-depth land navigation techniques and becoming familiar with land navigation at night using only a red-lens flashlight, compass and map. At the same time, the upperclassmen were challenged in a night land navigation course in which students were divided up by pairs, given a distance and direction and made to find four wooden stakes or points in the woods.
After all training was complete for the evening, the battalion was able to enjoy sleeping indoors in Fort McCoy temporary barracks.
On Saturday, the students were tested on their land navigation skills in a day land navigation practical course. Freshmen and weaker Cadets paired up, while everyone else went out on their own. Students were also given the chance to qualify on a hand grenade assault course in which they were tested on the correct form to throw grenades and identification of different types and classifications of grenades.
After a long day of training, Cadets were awarded with a cookout of hotdogs and hamburgers, just before setting out again for the night land navigation practical course, a shorter, yet more difficult course due to the lack of visibility.
For many, it was Sunday that was the most exciting. While the juniors got a head start on battle drill tactics by practicing a situational exercise lane, the underclassmen were able to become familiarized in rappelling and crossing a river/stream using a rope bridge.
After departing shortly after noon, the battalion was able to get back to their books and studies early Sunday night.
But for many, especially the new freshmen, the weekend was a memorable one.