Cadet Summer Training

Not Your Typical Walk in the Woods: Combined Field Training Exercises

STONE VALLEY, Pa. – Under sounds of simulated artillery and the haze of green and yellow-colored smoke, the Cadets of Penn State, Lock Haven, and Bucknell University are learning a very important lesson. It’s here, in the woods of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania’s Stone Valley, that Cadets of the 2nd Brigade, United States Army Cadet Command (ROTC) learn the importance of failure.

Over the course of four days, Cadets from three different battalions came together to participate in their spring Combined Field Training Exercises, or CFTX. Beginning Thursday, April 5, approximately 250 Cadets suited up for an event that pushed them beyond their comfort zones, testing them on everything they’ve learned thus far — both inside the classroom and out.

Cadet Noah Van Blarcom, Penn State, points ahead to a possible objective site during his Combined Field Training Exercises at Stone Valley in Huntingdon County, Pa on April 7. Photo by Emily Peacock

“CFTX is a large-scale event involving multiple schools within our Brigade getting together to experience what participating in platoon-level operations is like,” said Master Sgt. William Duffy, Penn State (Altoona).

“Here, they get to work together and see the longevity of all those little pieces they’ve picked up in labs and personal training as they put them together to form the bigger picture. This is a time where Cadets are being mentally and physically challenged beyond anything they’re used to.”

From Thursday evening to the mid-afternoon hours of Sunday, Cadets participated in mission scenarios, such as area reconnaissance, response to attack, ability to defend, and movement to contact — just to name a few. Throughout each mission, Cadets were also evaluated on their ability to respond to random attacks of both direct and indirect fire.

Cadet Takoda Perez, Lock Haven University, takes a knee and awaits further instructions during his Combined Field Training Exercises on April 7 at Stone Valley in Huntingdon County, Pa. Photo by Emily Peacock

“The skills you learn out here in CFTX are essentially basic underlying Army soldiering skills,” said Cadet Takoda Perez, Lock Haven University.

“I was prior enlisted, so I’ve been able to see how something that seems simple with my prior service background is completely revolutionary to some of these younger Cadets.” One of  Cadet Perez’s responsibilities this weekend included serving as platoon medic, ensuring that the Cadets of his platoon were eating, staying hydrated, while also caring for any injuries to the best of his abilities.

Through these training exercises, Cadets are learning not only what it’s like to be surrounded by new faces and new environments, but to also learn and grow from their mistakes. Whether it’s breaking down the actions of a platoon leader after an ambush or walking through how to properly secure a patrol base, Cadets are gaining hands-on experience that will better prepare them for life as a future Army officer.

Cadet Andrew Vanderweele, Penn State, takes in his surroundings as he helps to facilitate this weekend’s Combined Field Training Exercises at Stone Valley in Huntingdon County, Pa on April 7. Photo by Emily Peacock

“We found that MS3s enjoyed the weekend because they were able to get repetitions in leadership positions and in a variety of patrols,” said the Assistant Cadet in Charge, Cadet Andrew Vanderweele, Penn State (University Park).

“An after-action review (AAR) is conducted after every iteration so Cadets can hear their mistakes, talk through them, and learn how to do better next time. This way, when they go to Advanced Camp they know what did and didn’t work for them and can use their notes from CFTX to excel at camp.”

When asked about the overall morale of the Cadets going into their final day of training, Cadet Vandeweele seemed optimistic.

“I think the Cadets are doing amazing,” said Cadet Vanderweele. “One of the biggest challenges they’ve had to face has been the bitter cold temperatures, but these Cadets are learning how to push through being uncomfortable and are really doing a great job carrying out their missions.”

United States Army Cadet Command is responsible for training the Army’s future officers at 274 host universities and approximately 1,000 satellite locations across the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam. If you think you have what it takes to be a Cadet or if you are interested in a job after college, click the following link:

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Emily Peacock

Originally from Worcester, MA, Emily Peacock is a senior at Penn State majoring in public relations and psychology. Emily is spending the summer as a Public Affairs intern for Cadet Summer Training, working as a photographer and writer. In addition to her time at Fort Knox, Emily has also served as a public affairs intern for Penn State Army ROTC as well as the media relations director for Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism's trip to document the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games for the Associated Press. Emily is also a tour guide at Penn State and is an avid member of the club cross country team.

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