FORT KNOX, Ky. — Cadets from 4th Regiment took their personal fears and tossed them away to an explosive end at a new event on the Cadet Summer Training (CST) schedule.
While throwing dummy and an assortment of different tactical grenades is not something new to CST at Fort Knox, throwing live frag grenades is. Just like with Buddy Team Live Fire, Cadre go out of their way to make sure that the Cadets are safe throughout it all.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Van Houten, of the 1-41 4thID, was the Range Safety Officer, making made sure the Cadets knew exactly what they were doing before even getting a hold of a live grenade.
Cadets from 4th Regiment Advanced Camp watch a demonstration by 4th Infantry Division soldiers on how to throw a hand grenade, Fort Knox, Ky., June 20, 2019. | Photo by Kyle Crawford, CST Public Affairs Office
“Prior to going to the live bay, they have to go through the mock bay brief and training,” Houten said. “The mock bay is here to simulate what it is going to be like at the live bay, and then they have to go through the same steps at the live bay.”
He said that this training came about because General Stephen Townsend, the former Commanding General of Training and Doctrine, wanted the Cadets to do what the enlisted soldiers were doing in basic training. In this case that was throw live hand grenades.
However, this knowledge was not the only thing that Houten saw as a potential benefit for Cadets at the range.
Cadet Mauricio Castaneda, Texas A&M University, 4th Regiment Advanced Camp, gets ready to throw a dummy grenade, Fort Knox, Ky., June 20, 2019. | Photo by Kyle Crawford, CST Public Affairs Office
“The buildup of confidence they have after they’ve thrown the live hand grenade,” Houten said. “For some of them, this is their first time handling a grenade, and when they get down to live bay, they are super nervous. But after they get that first grenade out. They realize you can trust your training, and if you have trust in that ability, you’re going to be able to build that confidence.”
Alexia Allen, a Cadet from Middle Tennessee State University, hopes to branch Armor or Military Police once she graduates. She said that she was actually pretty nervous coming into today’s training even though it wasn’t new for her.
“I actually have [thrown grenades],” the Murphysboro, Tennessee, native said. “I qualified while I was in basic training, but I was still nervous because the experience I had at basic training was kind of different. You had drill sergeants yelling at you, but this one was a lot more at ease and more relaxed. They knew not to yell at you so you wouldn’t be nervous.”
But after getting a chance to head out to the range she found there were no issues moving forward.
“I feel more relaxed, more confident and more accomplished. Another thing I can mark off my list. And I feel more at ease,” Allen said.
Cadet Catherine Foley, University of Central Florida, 4th Regiment Advanced Camp, gets ready to throw a dummy grenade, Fort Knox, Ky., June 20, 2019. | Photo by Kyle Crawford, CST Public Affairs Office
Cadet Matthew Hinkley from Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, had never handled a grenade before and said that coming into the training he was really nervous. But thanks to the range Cadre he was able face his nerves head on.
“The Cadre here work really hard to make sure you understand something,” the Shippensburg University Cadet said. “If you mess up the first time, they’ll retrain you, and they stress that retraining isn’t bad it just means you have a bit more to learn to fully understand what you’re doing.”
As someone wanting to branch Infantry, this was a skill Hinkley would need to get down. And after using the real deal at the live bay, this ended up becoming his favorite event.
“I feel so much more confident in myself now that I’ve passed this training,” Hinkley said.
Cadet Hinkley wasn’t the only one who needed to be comfortable with the boom. Cadet Ra’shun Gerald, Norwich University, wants to branch Field Artillery after graduation and really was looking forward to this event.
A Cadet from 4th Regiment Advanced Camp kneels behind cover after throwing a live grenade, Fort Knox, Ky., June 20, 2019. | Photo by Kyle Crawford, CST Public Affairs Office
“When I commission, I want to be a field artillery officer, and, of course they deal with a lot of explosions,” the Capitol Heights, Maryland, native said, “So, I feel like as I’m coming along and going through CST there have been little things that kind of deal with explosives. This being one of those things, and I feel like wanting to be an artillery officer this is one of the things I have to get used to. Especially hearing those explosions.”
Like the other Cadets, Gerald saw this as a real help to personal growth. But he added that this event should become a regular event because of just how much it gives Cadets.
“It’s definitely a big confidence booster,” Gerald said. “People say the CS chamber builds confidence in your equipment, but I feel like this actually builds confidence more in yourself. Because knowing that you can pull that live grenade, pull the pin, strike a pose, throw it and know that you cleared that wall and made that explosion, you gain a lot of confidence in who you are.”