Oct. 8, 2012
Cadets dotted the shoulder as they paced toward the training site. Some cadets smiled, waving at the passing cars. They made their way along the pavement, shouldering 35-pound rucksacks.
The three-and-a-half mile march was only one of the many events that took place over the weekend training. Hosted at Jack’s Valley on the Air Force Academy, cadets participated in a three-day experience meant to boost confidence and team cooperation.
The first formation took place Friday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. as cadets assembled their sleep tents and prepped themselves for training.
The night land navigation exercise started at 9 p.m. “You have to go out and find five points, obviously at night,” MS3 Nick Albers explained. “Day land nav is more points, which is eight points, and longer distances.”
The land navigation exercise was early the next morning. MS3s were required to find eight flags, while MS1s and MS2s located five. Another night land navigation exercise with three points occurred the same night.
Cadets also participated in an event consisting of 17 obstacles, which included climbing over walls, maneuvering through scattered logs and other methods of improving agility.
The hand grenade assault course was another activity for cadets. Squads were assigned a simulated casualty and had to navigate their way through a mock battlefield.
The best time of the day was 12 minutes and 47 seconds. The cadets of the winning squad were permitted showers as a reward.
The Field Leadership Reaction Course was the last major event of the day. In their squads, teams were issued a challenge in which they only had certain items to accomplish a goal, like only being able to use specific pieces of wood to cross a riverbed. Additional challenges, like a 30-minute time limit, complicated the goal.
MS4s observed, making sure squad leaders encouraged teammates and developed strategies. Each squad leader received a formal evaluation of their leadership at the conclusion of the event.
Sunday, Sept. 30, the last day of the weekend training, had more exercises. MS4s woke at 4:30 a.m. to set up the training course.
The MS1, MS2 and MS3 cadets assembled in formation at 6 a.m., then marched to the ropes course. The day’s activities consisted of four events, one of which, the low ropes course, had three obstacles.
The spider web of the course required cadets to help each other through holes created using yarn. Once a hole was used, it closed. “It really, really requires everybody participating,” said MS4 Lyle Rogers.
The next obstacle required teams to balance on three steel wires while organizing a method to have each person hold a rope attached to the trunk of a tree, and the third obstacle used a pair of cadets.
The two would stand on parallel wires that gradually grew farther apart. They had to use each other as support to the end. The exercise can entail more risks, as illustrated by one MS1’s injury.
“My partner started leaning back, and I went with him. I hit my shin on the other wire,” the cadet explained. His shin and ankle were treated by on-site medics.
The rappel tower, alpine tower and climbing wall made up the high ropes events. The alpine tower was composed of three routes to the top of a 70-foot wooden structure, each path a different level of difficulty.
Strapped in a harness, cadets worked as teams to instruct each other on the best holds for their feet and hands. There was no time limit.
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Thompson commented on the bravery of cadets. “It’s the ones that are really scared of heights but choose to get to the top that really impress me,” he said.
MS4 Jonathan Caraballo summarized the weekend: “It’s all about teamwork and camaraderie. It teaches the individual that it’s not about yourself all the time. It’s about helping one another.”