Nervous, excited, and thrilled were all words used by Cadets of 3rd Regiment, Basic Camp, to describe their emotions before crawling directly under and toward live M240 machine gun fire.
The Cadets embraced this challenge at the Night Infiltration Course (NIC), a training event at Cadet Summer Training (CST) designed to test physical and mental toughness through the simulation of a combat scenario.
“If you’re in a combat situation and you’re given a mission, you have to complete that mission, otherwise there will be rippling effects through neighboring units,” 2nd Lt. Christian Henderson, commissioned officer from Ball State University, said. “We’ll give them a hectic situation like this, because they may end up in a situation like this in combat, and this prepares them to complete whatever the mission is.”
While safety was the number one priority on the course, Henderson discussed the training benefits of allowing Cadets to feel the full pressure of a live-fire scenario, ensuring that they can operate under these circumstances.
“It’s a nerve-racking one, because there’s live rounds going off,” Henderson said. “There’s these little explosives going off, and it’s perfectly safe, but they don’t know that, and they’re not meant to know that.”
Although the rounds flew far above the possibility of injury, this is disguised by the intentional, overwhelming design of the course.
“It looks like it’s a lot closer from their perspective,” Henderson said.
Cadet Logan Price, from The Ohio State University, epitomized this idea as he explained the sudden wave of anxiety the sound of the gunfire evoked.
“At first, I wasn’t really nervous, I was kind of excited for it, but then once that first shot went off and all of us kind of realized that this is real, this is real fire, the nerves kind of started to set in,” Price said. “Once those gunshots started going off, everybody was a little afraid.”
While completing the course was slightly distressing, for Price, this fear came with an abundance of thrill and exhilaration.
“For me, this was the highlight of CST this year, something exciting, gets the adrenaline going, but it’s also very real,” Price said.
Although enthusiastic about his experience, Price had a clear understanding of the true significance behind such intense training.
“Every single day we have men and women fighting overseas, and this is some people’s everyday lives,” Price said. “So you got to be either all in, or don’t be in at all, and you just have to be ready for it, because this could very well be your job.”
On a similar note, Cadet Logan Ridenbaugh, from Colorado State University, expressed the immense pride he felt in completing the course, especially when viewed from a worldly perspective.
“I’m thinking just about the men and women that have also done this before,” Ridenbaugh said.
Ridenbaugh went on to explain that he lives overseas, allowing him to visit the beaches of Normandy. This has accentuated the gravity of what it means to serve and has instilled a sense of honor within him as his future as an officer begins to unfold.
“I can kind of place myself alongside these men and women that serve for us,” Ridenbaugh said.
With the future in mind, he expressed the immense impression that the NIC has made on him, and the main lesson he has learned from the event.
“It’s scary out there, you know, you’re getting shots overhead…but I think it’s to build mental toughness, it’s what you need in the Army,” Ridenbaugh said.