Students contracted with Appalachian State ROTC enjoy the opportunity for several summer training assignments. Those opportunities include Internships; overseas travel with the Cultural Understanding and Leadership program; and additional skill training such as Airborne, Air Assault, Sapper, Dive and Survival . Those summer adventures will be covered in future posts.
Required training of all Cadets, usually between their Junior and Senior year, is called Advance Camp. This first post will look at that training.
Advanced Camp is a 31-day training event that is designed to assess a Cadet’s ability to demonstrate proficiency in basic officer leadership tasks. Cadets are evaluated on their ability to lead at the Squad and Platoon levels, both in garrison and tactical environments. Cadets are mentally and physically tested during a 12-day consequence driven field training exercise that replicates a combat training center
The mission of Advanced Camp is to assess a Cadet’s potential to serve as a commissioned officer. It is the most significant training and evaluation event in ROTC. Training is complex, challenging, and rigorous and is conducted in a stressful training environment. Cadets reinforce basic skills through squad (9-13 Cadets) level leader development exercises, and transition to platoon (40-50 Cadets) level operations in a company construct. Prior to attending Advanced Camp, Cadets receive intelligence updates, preparing them for the geo-political environment to which they will deploy and operate.
Read/See at the Cadet Command website about Advance Camp: http://www.cadetcommand.army.mil/advanced.aspx
17 current App State ROTC seniors completed Advance Camp this summer (2 will go next summer). Read some of their thoughts about the training:
Cadet Sam Boyles:
Advanced camp is the culminating ROTC experience. Everything you learn in ROTC over the past 3 years is put to the test at some point throughout your time at Fort Knox. It tests you physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’ll have to be able to lead from the front whether or not you’re carrying an ASIP Radio, an M240, or a loaded rucksack on your back. This is all done in the unforgiving heat and rolling foothills of Kentucky. You’ll have to maintain your mental strength after facing brutally long nights of planning and constant attacks. With minimal sleep, you’ll be tested on necessary skills such as land navigation, map reading, CBRN, first aid, marksmanship, and leadership. Lastly, you’ll have to cope emotionally despite being at one of your weakest moments. Those moments can include being scared of heights and having to rappel down what feels like a ridiculously high tower, sucking for air after facing the irritants of CS gas, or just simply being physically and mentally exhausted. All of these moments define Advanced Camp, because these moments are the true tests. They test your confidence, and let you realize new things about yourself that you never realized before. They test your relationships with others, and that test will create some of the strongest bonds that seem almost impossible to develop in just one month. Advanced camp is an experience like no other. It’s seen as a test, but at the end of each day, it’s a place where cadets are developed and future officers are born.
CDT Boyles as a SAW gunner with an M249
Cadet Chandler Case:
From the 4th of June to the 5th of July I was a part of the 1st regiment of Cadet Advanced Camp 2018. The first 4-5 days was paperwork, medical, and other administrative duties. After this we were out of the barracks within the first week. We slept outside at night, but during the day we would conduct a number of activities and graded tests. These events varied from: Obstacle courses, Team building courses, Rappel Tower, Land navigation exams, and Weapons training. During the last bit of this section of camp was the actual Land Navigation (Practical) exam, where cadets are given markers in the woods to find. Many of the distances to the points were as far as 1,000 meters; however, we were allowed to use the roads and trails, making the distances go by very quickly. For the day portion I got 5 out of 5 points; however, I failed to make it back to the staging area in time for the night land navigation portion, resulting in me having to retake it the next evening.
Once this phase was completed, my squad (weapons squad) was given the two crew served m240 Bravos and additional equipment. This caused my ruck sack to weight around 70+ pounds for the majority advanced camp. For the next phase our platoon was sent out to conduct simulated operations against SAPA forces in three separate areas of operations (AOs). We were first led by specific Cadre who would guide us on how to conduct certain operations (Ambushes, Recons, establishing a Patrol Base, Movement to Contact, and a hasty Defense). After this, we had a series of FTXs where we each took turns being Squad leaders, Platoon Sergeants, or Platoon leaders. I received a squad leader positon in the first few days during our Platoon’s hasty defense of a recently taken objective. It would only be on the second to last day; however, where I would finally receive my second graded position as a Platoon Sergeant. We had to conduct a hasty ambush as we only had around 12 minutes to plan the mission. Despite the very short time hack, we were able to adequately accomplish the mission.
After these lanes we were finally allowed to head back to the barracks. In total, of the 32 collective days I was at Advanced Camp, I would say I spent roughly 20+ days outside.
Some of my biggest lessons learned from Advanced camp was that there are many Cadets who knew a lot more than me. These individuals were experienced and competent, and often times, I felt like I was dwarfed by their abilities as a leader. Through this, I learned a lot from these individuals and attempted to further refine myself. Another big takeaway from camp was the importance of graded events. For me, I realized that, though I did well on graded lanes out in the field, I did not do as well on graded events (Such as PT tests and land navigation exams).
For those who are preparing to go to Cadet Advanced Camp, I would strongly recommend studying up on Garrison etiquette and basic drill and ceremony. Many people focus on the tactical lanes, but forget that a large portion of camp is also in the barracks. I would also recommend on working out your differences in your platoon and learn to carry each other by utilizing what each of you are good at. Our platoon worked well together; however, many platoons had a terrible time as they let their egos and prejudices get in the way of the mission.
Cadet James Gehret:
This summer I went to ROTC Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky for my final assessment as an ROTC cadet. Advanced Camp is designed to assess your leadership capabilities when placed in stressful situations as well as test some basic soldier skills such as marksmanship with the M4 Carbine and Land Navigation.
AC starts off with a PT test and drug test to make sure all cadets meet basic fitness requirements for the Army. The first week is spent in garrison doing in processing paperwork as well as taking the written land nav exam. Cadets are cycled through different leadership positions within the platoon. Cadre grade your leadership assignments on “Blue Cards” which have certain leadership criteria they use to grade your performance. Simple things like making sure the platoon is on time will result in a good grade while not maintaining accountability of all personnel and equipment will result in a bad grade.
After the first week starts 20 days of training in the field. The first half included testing such as day and night land nav, marksmanship, gas chamber, tactical combat casualty care and more. In addition, every night the platoon had to set up a patrol base in the woods. There is also the first 2 of 4 ruck marches. The distances were 4 miles and 6 miles. These ruck marches are designed to condition cadets for the 12 miler at the end of camp.
The second half of the field consisted of a series of 3 FTXs in which cadets would lead patrolling missions. All FTXs were 3 days in length. The first FTX was cadre led to show cadets the proper procedures for how to conduct raids, attacks, ambushes, recons and hasty defenses as a platoon. Following the first FTX was the 8 mile ruck that ended at the location for the next FTX. The second FTX was completely Cadet led. Also, cadre graded these missions and began pushing Cadets more to see how they react under pressure. The final FTX had the most challenging missions to test the platoon as a whole.
Upon completion of the field training cadets went back to garrison for weapons and equipment cleaning, the 12 mile ruck march and branch orientation day.
My biggest takeaway from my experience at AC is that sometimes it is better to make the ok decision quickly than the best decision slowly. Waiting around and trying to find the best course of action rather than making a quick decision can get soldiers killed. Also have confidence in your plan. Your mission will go so much better if you can get everyone to buy into and commit to your plan.
For those going to Advanced Camp next summer, here is the advice I would give:
Stay fit and active in the time between finals and when you report to camp. The PT test score acts as your first impression with your cadre and you want to start off on the right foot. Watch out for the “good idea fairy”. Everyone thinks their school does things the best way possible. My platoon stuck to doctrine and the Ranger Handbook when it came to creating SOPs and it made everything so much easier.
Be a good follower. You will spend most of your time in the field as a joe pulling security. Don’t be the guy that is always sleeping on security. It reflects badly on leadership and those cadets will remember that when you are in charge. With that, be careful about how you give the leadership advice. Don’t demand that they do it a certain way, send your recommendations up the chain of command. Everything runs a lot smoother when there is only one Platoon Leader instead of 40 Platoon Leaders.
Know 2 cadences when you show up to camp. You will use cadences everywhere you go during garrison. I was lucky to never get a garrison leadership because I didn't know any. Don’t leave your camp performance up to luck, know some cadences.
Do the right thing, not the easy thing. You will be sleep deprived and physically exhausted during the FTXs. Have some personal discipline. Take a knee during halts instead of ruck flopping. Don’t sleep when on security. Using you red lense at night could result in half of your platoon being killed. Keeping true to this one piece of advice will ensure you are never the reason the mission went badly.
Lastly, make sure you sell yourself to your cadre every chance you get. You only will have 5 graded leadership positions during camp, but the cadre are always watching. At the same time, there are 40 Cadets and only 4 cadre so it is easy to slip between the cracks. Find the thing you are good at and teach it to others. The cadre will notice if you are helping out all the cadets who failed land nav or showing people how to clean their rifles. If you have no military experience, be the guy who is constantly motivating others. Remember, cadre are always watching.
Cadet Rick Finegan
This summer I attended Cadet Summer Training, which is often just called camp, at Fort Knox. Before even getting to Fort Knox, I had a decent understanding of what to expect since the majority of your MSIII year is preparing you to be successful at camp. In my opinion, camp is broken into two parts. The first part lasted about 10 to 12 days and consists mainly of testable events, such as, land navigation, two days at the range, call for fire, a pt test, and so on. I personally felt confident that I was ready for these events, largely because the MSIV group and cadre prepared my class well. A tip of advice for the upcoming MSIII class that I wish I had been given is to find a way to practice shooting before you get there. At camp was my first time shooting an M4 and I am not going to lie I struggled a little bit. Find a friend that owns a rifle and ask them if you can practice with it before camp. It was the only thing I didn’t feel prepared for at camp, and can easily be fixed just by practicing a few times on your own time.
The next 13 days at camp are split into 3 separate field training exercises, which I would consider the second part of camp. These field training exercises were very similar to the JFTX we had in the spring. Each day would consist of two lanes that could be a recon, ambush, raid, attack, or defense. Once the two lanes were complete leadership would change and the new leadership would be responsible for setting up a patrol base and conducting resupply missions for our food and water. During these field training exercises, you are graded largely on how well you know platoon tactics, how capable you are at planning your mission, and most of all how well you work with others. If you are the person that has a negative attitude and doesn’t listen to your leadership, you will be rated dead last, everyone will hate you, and may even be recycled to a later regiment. The best thing you can do to be prepared for your days in the field at camp is to always have a positive attitude and to not get frustrated. If your cadre are anything like mine they will purposefully try to frustrate you.
Overall, camp is what you make of it. If you do not prepare accordingly you will suffer. Go into it open-minded to learn new things, you can really learn a lot from not only your cadre, but also the other Cadets that may have been prior service or from military academies. If you work well with others and listen, you are more than likely to make a few new friends and rank well in your platoon.
Cadet Hannah Godfrey
Cadet Foy pulled out some of his gear out of his ruck sack, “jeez guys to be honest, I don’t think I would make it through this camp if I didn’t have all of you.” Foy was an engineering student from Oklahoma. He talked a lot about how he wanted to propose to his girl friend when he returned.
Cadet Crow sat close by breaking a stick into smaller and smaller pieces, “I’ve been watching these four ant try to get this peanut of this mound of dirt, and they remind me of all of us.” Crow is 27 and a chaplain’s assistant. He’s a father of two with another child due on the day of graduation.
I stood up from my hooch building and scanned the patrol base. All around exasperated cadets were pulling their soaked and muddied gear from their rucksacks and creating nests for themselves. You see we had already bivouacked in this same patrol base, but a storm came tearing through and had to pack all our things in frenzy and ruck a mile to tent city where we expected we would sleep for the night. Twenty minutes later we packed up all our gear and went back out into the woods. We didn’t know it yet, but that night at two in the morning, the storm would come back raging, and we would ruck back to tent city where we’d stay until we woke up at 04:30.
Looking back at this game of musical patrol bases now, I can’t tell it to my friends or family without laughing, but the at the time it was incredibly miserable and degrading to morale. And Foy had it right when he said he couldn’t get through it alone. I know I would not have been able to get through camp if not for the support from all my peers, whether it be from lending a baby wipe to someone so they could get the camo paint off their face, or tossing a magazine at someone in the middle of a fire fight because they ran out of amo. The most valuable thing I learned at camp was how to completely trust my peers to be tough under pressure, keep a cool head, and make decisions to protect and defend their peers.
And just like those ants eventually got that peanut up that mound of dirt, we all banded together and pushed through Advance Camp.
Cadet Dustin Osborne
During my junior summer, I completed Cadet Advanced Camp in Fort Knox, Kentucky. I reported to the Louisville, KY airport July 9th to be transported by bus to Fort Knox. Upon arrival, I was assigned to 2nd Regiment, Charlie Company, 2nd Platoon, 4th squad. The next few days involved paperwork, height and weight measurements, and issuing equipment as we were being in processed. During this time, our platoon worked on developing standard operating procedures and building team cohesion. After a few days in garrison, our company moved out into the field. Each day our platoon conducted training exercises to test and challenge every individual cadet. These included events such as: confidence course, repel tower, basic rifle marksmanship, day and night land navigation, C- burn gas, tactical combat casualty care, call for fire, and a few others. Time in the field was also split up into three separate FTXs (Field Training Exercises). During FTXs, cadets would rotate into different leadership positions like Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant, or Squad Leader and given orders to conduct different missions such as raid, ambush, react to contact, and recon. We spent approximately two and a half week’s total in the field until the last field training exercise was complete. From there we moved back into garrison for the remaining few days. We conducted a 12-mile ruck march and used the last couple of days to clean and turn in equipment before graduation.
I learned a lot about myself over the course of Advanced Camp. I was challenged mentally and physically throughout the entire process. The information covered wasn’t necessarily new, but the challenge came in implementing what you’ve learned while working with a platoon full of cadets that do not have the same base of knowledge. Some of my biggest takeaways from camp is that it is essential to have the interpersonal skills to work, develop, and accomplish the mission individually and as a platoon. Also, accountability of personnel/equipment and effective communication via the chain of command are extremely important to a successful experience at camp. Lastly, having a positive attitude and the mental fortitude to never quit in tough situations will help greatly during this experience.
Cadet Meg Stevenson
The best part of camp was how quickly we had to adapt, being immersed in a new environment with people we have never met. Learning to work as a team and seeing the success grow as we learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses was an invaluable lesson that I believe all army officers will continue to develop throughout their military careers. Even when not in leadership roles, our leadership and personal strengths were constantly growing as we worked with our peers, watching them succeed or fail as missions passed.
I would recommend that all cadets preparing for camp have solid knowledge bases in Land Navigation, Call for Fire, and tactics. Being physically fit will also greatly increase performance at camp, because the PT test counts for 6 OML points. Being prepared for rucking the 4, 6, 8 and 12 mile foot marches will make a difference, I saw many people fall out from rucks as short as 4 miles because they were not adequately prepared. Bringing spare small items (pens, pencils, and paper, among other things) is really helpful because you and your battle buddies will lose things in the field.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be willing to volunteer, especially for RTO or Medic because those are the two positions that put you in the best place to learn while having minimal responsibility. It allows you to focus on what people do well or poorly in and adapt those things to your own leadership positions. Most importantly, have a good attitude. Even when things weren’t going well, keeping a positive attitude (and being aware of when you aren’t having a good day so you can manage that) helps boost the morale of the platoon, you can make a big impact just by being good to those around you.
Cadet Jeremy Tuggle
I attended the US Army Advanced Camp from July 14 to August 14 this summer. It is a month long leadership evaluation of all future Army Officers going through ROTC.
At advanced camp, you can expect to be placed in leadership positions ranging from team leader, to platoon sergeant and platoon leader. Everything you do is graded, whether by the cadre or by your peers. The best advice I can give a future cadet attending advanced camp is to be a team player and help out as much as possible, especially when not in a leadership role. The members of the platoon take note of who helps out and it reflects on the final assessment in the peer evaluations, which have a significant impact on a cadet’s final grade.
What I learned from advanced camp is that being a confident leader is important. Tactics are not what is graded, rather, the cadre grade cadets on their ability to motivate the platoon and confidently lead them through various missions. Using common sense goes a long way when a cadet doesn’t understand tactics as well as their peers.
For future cadets attending advanced camp, I suggest bringing a Ranger Handbook, and reading it/ familiarizing yourself with it before getting there. During down time it is nice to have to go over tactics you may be unfamiliar with, so when your time comes as the platoon leader, you have something to reference.
Overall, my experience at advanced camp was positive. I made great friends and enjoyed my time in Fort Knox. I finished as the top cadet in my regiment and received an award.