Cadet Sanchez of Golf Company crouches in the brush during a STX training exercise. Photo by Corey Ohlenkamp.

Cadet Sanchez of Golf Company crouches in the brush during a STX training exercise. Photo by Corey Ohlenkamp.

By Sydney Callis
Leader’s Training Course

Under the cover of rustling leaves, maneuvering through the trees and dodging bushes, Leader’s Training Course Cadets make their way through the lanes at the situational training exercise site.

With black, green and brown paint smeared across their faces to increase their camouflage, Cadets are armed with paintball guns and carry out different missions designed to teach them the methods of defensive and offensive battle strategies.

“The primary thing we’re trying to push with them is the ability to lead and to take charge,” said Mike Ansbro, a trainer at the site and teacher at James Madison University. “A lot of them haven’t done that before, or haven’t gotten up in front of a group to talk and lead them.”

The situational training exercise is the culmination of the Cadets’ 29 days of training at the Leader’s Training Course, and they’ve got three days at the site to show everything they have learned.

Foxtrot Company Cadet Tyler Billings, a student at University of Wyoming, said the training is fun, but also educational.

“Small unit tactics training is an excellent training for Cadets because you get to practice being better leaders, especially under high pressure and quick, moving environments,” Billings said.

Ansbro, who has been a trainer at STX for the past five years, said at the site, Cadets also learn leadership, planning, troop-leading procedures and tactical drills.

Foxtrot Company Cadet Jonathan Ortiz, a student at State University of New York at Binghamton, said for him, the training emphasized the importance of unit cohesion.

“Teamwork is the most important key,” Ortiz said. “Communication with your team will get you through the mission. Without that, everybody is going to get shot, even the squad leader. Even if you think you’re a hero, you need to work as a team.”

Instead of practicing with dummy weapons like Cadets do during their field reaction training, Cadets get to use paintball guns during this exercise.

“Initially, they think it’s the greatest thing,” Ansbro said. “They all understand paintball and think it’s fun. It’s not here to be fun, it’s here to learn and the paintball is another tool for them to be able to see and learn from.”

Ortiz, who got shot during one of the exercises, said the paintballs help simulate pressure in the environment, something they could experience at Leader Development and Assessment Course and also if they continue their career in the Army, it prepares them for situations they may encounter during deployments.

“We come out here, and we all get shot together, and then the next mission we learn why we got shot,” Ortiz said. “I got shot in the head. It was just a little headshot. I took it, though.”

At the site, Cadets are given more opportunities to practice leading squads of their peers through lanes simulating field scenarios like a squad ambush, squad attack, reacting to direct contact from enemies and leading an ambush.

“The ambush was the coolest,” Ortiz said. “You have the element of surprise, and they don’t know you’re coming if you do it well. I love doing ambushes.”

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