Collaboration key in Cadets’ strategy

Cadets overcome obstacles at the Field Leaders Reaction Course on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. U.S. Army Photo by Al Zdarsky

By Noelle Wiehe
U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – Many challenges at the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) require Cadets to overcome fears or to see how far they can push themselves. At the Field Leader’s Reaction Course (FLRC) the most important factor to success is strategy.

Lt. Col. Gustavo Perez, chief of FLRC, will see thousands of Cadets come through his course. He knows, however, that it is not important for Cadets to overcome every obstacle, but to develop leadership skills and demonstrate those skills during the training.

“Being successful is not the object; it is being able to lead [the squad] and being able to adjust,” he said. “Don’t freeze, don’t get ‘killed’ and don’t get the squad ‘killed.’”

At FLRC Cadets go through several different lanes where their squad must overcome obstacles such as bridges, walls and mud pits within an allotted amount of time.

The air horn sounds every 45 minutes, alerting Cadets and cadre that it is time to switch lanes. Each squad of 10-12 Cadets has an appointed leader who will develop an operations order for completing the specific lane. The squad discusses methods for completing each task and then the squad leader will usually go to the site to assess the problems and develop a strategy.

“It was definitely challenging, but that was part of the fun” said 4th Regiment Cadet Emily Frigo of the University of California, Los Angeles. “Our squad works really well together and we get along really well.” North Carolina A&T State University Cadet Torrance Porter of the same squad boasted that lack of cohesion was not an issue among his fellow Cadets and that they believed they “lucked out” in having such great people in their squad.

Warrior Forge Commandant of Cadets, Col. Dean Shultis, keeps a close eye on training sites at LDAC and knows the challenges Cadets face in order to be evaluated as future Army officers.“The ability of the leader to be able to take information from different sources and put it to use quickly is really a big part of the test here. “

Cadets do not always succeed in the given task; whether they ran out of time or could not figure out how to successfully navigate the challenge, they still walk away with valuable experience. Second lieutenants are on site with each squad to evaluate Cadets on their tactical abilities. It is through this evaluation that each Cadet makes it through the reaction course.

“FLRC is a great test of a [prospective] lieutenant’s ability to be adaptive, resilient, innovative and to see a problem and be able to come up with a solution quickly,” Shultis said.

Third Regiment Cadet Theodore Hornstra of the University of California, Davis took charge of a scenario where he was tasked to get his squad and their equipment over a high wall. Only he had been allowed to see the other side. By talking his Cadets through the process, describing the obstacle to his squad and taking input from a fellow Cadet, Hornstra almost made the challenge look easy. His squad was even able to finish the task in less than the allotted amount of time.

Fourth Regiment Cadet Tyler Shimandle of Slippery Rock University believed his squad completed the tasks “exceptionally well,” but unfamiliarity with the course was an obstacle for him personally.

FLRC is executed within the first two weeks of Cadets’ arrival, giving little time to develop squad cohesion. Despite this, most squads seem to be able to adapt.

“Our communication is on point,” said 5th Regiment Cadet Mary Solak of John Carroll University while on one of the lanes at FLRC. Her squad member, Cadet Douglas Barnes of Baylor University, explained that sharing a common experience even if just for a few days brings about squad cohesion.
“Whenever you’re out here sweating together you come together pretty quick,” he said.

Shultis said that the FLRC is a great venue for evaluating Cadets’ leadership because that cohesion has not formed and Cadets are expected to lead without knowing each others’ strengths, weaknesses and overall capabilities. “It’s interesting that the FLRC comes at this point at LDAC because they’re still getting to know one another and come together as a team.”

While waiting for orders from his squad leader, 5th Regiment Cadet Nicholas Peterson of Rochester Institute of Technology reflected on his experience so far. “We’re having a blast, learning a lot and leading the Army life.”

Check out our video about this course here

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