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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Training Exercise

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Back when I was a cadet, I took part in several leadership training exercises. A particular one involved a patrol that had to make contact with friendly guerrillas to conduct an operation. While en route, we encountered and eliminated a sniper. When we then made contact with the guerrillas, the patrol leader and his second went out to talk to the leader of the guerrillas and his second. It was then revealed that the sniper we had eliminated was one of the guerrillas. The second in command of the guerrillas became "emotional" as the sniper was his brother. He pulled his weapon and shot the patrol leader.

At this juncture, I was with the main body of the patrol (all of them my fellow cadets, as were the patrol leader and his second, the guerrillas were played by the senior cadets). I was NOMINALLY the fourth in line of command for the patrol, but had been picked by the patrol leader to be the "point man" and had not had anyone specifically assigned to me as a team or element.

As we all watched what was going on, my own mind had already reached the "he is going to shoot our guys" decision, but that is one of those things that is impossible to prove until it happens. So if I shot, there would be no way to determine if I was right or wrong. The real world is like that, by the way.

The Guerrilla second shot our patrol leader.

Instantly the mass of cadets opened fire on the two guerrillas and charged into the clearing after the rest of the guerrillas.

All that is, except for me.

I was NOT going into that clearing. My mind had now switched over to "trap".

But I utterly failed to try to restrain my fellow cadets, because I was not specifically in charge of any of them, and the third in command was leading the charge.

I waited. And sure enough, a machine-gun opened up from our left flank, raking the clearing where the patrol was now exposed in the open.

It was then I moved, tracking the machine-gun's location by sound and skirting the edge of the clearing until I could flank the gun and take it out.

While I failed on a number of levels (I should have tried to exercise authority, but at that point I was still more loner than anything else and the idea that I was a "sergeant" did not really sink in. I should have tried to get the third in command to not charge, I should have tried to rally some of the cadets to me and held them from charging the clearing, I should have done a number of things), what I had done caught the attention of both the senior cadets and the cadre. Of all the cadets, I had not entered the clearing. And I had not fled or hidden, or simply remained where I was, I had acted. Of all the cadets, I had pieced together what was about to happen, and had actually developed a plan, on the fly, rather than simply charging to my front at the visible enemy. I had gone to the decisive point (the machine-gun), and had assaulted it from the rear. And I had accomplished this without any of the "guerrillas" seeing me until I attacked the gun from its blind side, which ended the exercise.

The scenario was still a disaster (the patrol would have sustained heavy casualties), but in most cases where this training scenario was run, none of the cadets would think ahead. The scenario was designed to teach the cadets to do that by luring them into a trap. I had not been lured, but had seen the trap and acted decisively to break it.

But I had failed to lead, and that was the thing the Cadre and the senior cadets wanted to fix.