By Crystal Allen
Leader’s Training Course
Cadets lined up at the start of a nearly 50-yard-long sand pit. Their mission: cross the pit, armed with rifles, and low-crawl back to their positions.
And do it without getting sand into the rifle’s muzzle. Sand in a muzzle could prevent the weapon from firing.
For many, the task was a struggle. As they crawled, sand and saw dust kicked up, adding even more weight and more of an obstacle for Cadets to push through.
Individual tactical movement is one of four stations that make up squad tactics training at Heard Park. The maneuvers are designed to expose Cadets to how Soldiers navigate a combat environment.
Snaking through the grainy surface wasn’t the most pleasant of experience for some Echo Company Cadets.
“You feel gross, and as soon as you look up, you still have really far to go,” Suzy Feakes of Missouri State University said. “You just have to put your head down and keep going.”
While being the most difficult, individual movements are also the most critical aspect of squad tactics, said Sgt. John Bryant, a cadre member at Heard Park. Individual movements help Cadets build their skills for when they are with a group in a defensive situation.
“It’s more labor intensive, more physical,” he said.
Most Cadets had no prior experience low- or high-crawling.
“For me, it was a pretty big adjustment because all of my battle strategies have been indoors,” said Tyler Hutto, Marion Military Institute. “It’s a lot more physically demanding.”
Besides individual movements, the other three stations are grenade throwing, improvised explosive device lanes where Cadets learn to identify an improvised explosive device and how to report it and, lastly, defensive positions. All stations are focused on individual skills Cadets need to learn before moving forward in LTC.
For Cadets, grenade throwing can sometimes be the most fun. There are four targets set up at which Cadets have to throw a mock grenade, hoping to have it land within a certain blast radius of the targets.
“Everybody wants their chance to pull the pen and throw one,” Hutto said. “A lot of kids in the line make a game out of it; it’s just a good thing to boost morale a little bit.”
Cadets received prior training before tackling the four stations, including land navigation, where they learn to read a map and use a compass. This helps them in the defense station where they have to build a foxhole and come up with certain angles that are best to defend from. For the individual movement station, Cadets are taught team-building exercises where they learn how to communicate with a squad.
The stations are spread over two days. Cadets tackle two stations one day and two the next. Before each station, Cadets are given an instructions, and instructors lead them through a hands-on portion.
“You have to keep in mind that one day this could be real, so you really need to train like it is really going on,” Feakes said. “You’re training for something that will one day save your life and the lives of your Soldiers.”