Day two begins
0500: Wake up. We woke up to some booming mortar from another group training on the base.
On a side note: last night’s land navigation went extremely well! Cadets were given two and a half hours to complete the challenge. I managed to go out on my own (without a compass) and find the 3/5 points required to pass. Not too bad for a civilian!
0545: First formation, cadets are briefed on the day’s STX (squad tactical exercises).
0700-1700: Cadets must always establish perimeter security.
0700: Cadets begin the squad tactical exercise (STX) lanes, consisting of assault, squad vs. squad, reconnaissance, ambush, and IEDs from Opfor.
Operation orders and briefings
0930: Cadets Bender and Williams receive op orders and prepare miniature terrain models to brief their squads.
Putting training into practice
0945: Cadets practice dealing with approaching civilians; this includes determining if the person is hostile, and conducting a thorough search.
Performing op orders
1100: Cadets interact with hostile natives during an operation to gain intel on the location of IEDs.
1730: HOT CHOW! Fazoli’s catered a rockin’ pasta dinner at the FOB. Definitely a welcome change from eating MREs (meal ready to eat… Sorta) all day.
Master Sergeant Evershed and Sergeant Crawford served salad throughout the chow line; apparently cadre establishes their popularity based on how many cadets chose their salad. Bad PT scores were threatened, passing grades were bribed; Evershed even debated that his salad has “extra love” in it. Crawford retaliated by saying “Evershed serves bad salad!”
Light-hearted chow time definitely keeps morale up after a long day of STX Lanes.
1830-2230: Cadets go over guard tower duties. The MS IVs play out different situations where cadets need to deal with both hostile and friendly civilians. MS IVs dress as “Sapa” (a mock culture of opposing forces), and practice different battle tactics with the cadets.
These patrols were conducted during the night, pictures are not useable.
2300: Lights out after the following morning Op orders are given.
Protecting the press
Mark, my photographer, and I were issued paintball masks, but no weapons. Second Squad was assigned to protect us throughout the STX lanes. Cadets were timid at first, thus “the media” (us) was allowed to breach security and run rampant during ops. They quickly learned to be assertive, and say things like “You need to stay with me at all times. This is for your own safety, and the safety of the squad.” They also learned that if they keep media personnel in the back, that we will move to the front, out of formation and against orders, in order to get a good picture. I, myself, did disobey the command to “sure and stay” during the IED Op, because they left me alone. I proceeded to run to the other cadets, who were taking fire. Cadet Gemma took over media accountability, and grabbed my leg to keep me from getting shot as I low crawled from the cover of a building to get the shot of the cadets taking control of an opposing civilian. Having media on the field helps.