July 10, 2016 –
“This is my obstacle,” a sergeant states with his emphasis on ownership to a herd of eager Cadet Initial Entry Training (CIET) candidates approaching the third obstacle on the Field Leaders Reaction Course (FLRC) nestled deep in the Kentucky woods.
The obstacle consists of two six-foot walls and a scaffold starting about six feet from the starting line and spanned six feet apart. Painted black in small areas and bright, caution-yellow on most, it stands ominous and confusing among the sharp dapples of sunlight piercing through the forest cover.
“Not one team has yet to succeed this mission today,” he says after dramatic pause during the mission brief.
Handing an ammo box, gloves and a rope to a designated squad leader, he says, “Your group has 15 minutes to deliver the ammo box and all personnel through the Wall Banger.”
Participants may not touch any yellow portion or the ground below, he added firmly.
Silence falls over the squad.
Elected owner of the Wall Banger is Staff Sgt. Vanqualis (Van) Battles, native of Greensboro, Florida, and Soldier from Bravo Company, 4th Regiment of the 518th Training Support Battalion, 104th Training Division (LT). He is an instructor hand-picked by Task Force Wolf, the Army Reserve task force in charge of training personnel mentoring future leaders attending the U.S. Army Cadet Command, Cadet Summer Training (CST16) at Fort Knox.
Furthermore, Battles is a seasoned noncommissioned officer. A 12-year veteran, he is entrusted to provide guidance to Cadet Initial Entry Training (CIET) candidates striving to become Cadets, and impart leadership guidance to the 2nd lieutenants participating as their platoon leaders.
Throughout the CIET cycle students are introduced to the role of noncommissioned officers as their program mentors. They learn their essential contributions and integral role in squad level decision making.
“Until this phase of CIET candidates work on individual tasks,” said Lt. Col. Scott Hogdon, professor of military science from San Diego State University in California, and officer in charge of the FLRC range.
“The FLRC range on the eighth day of training is the first exercise to implement group dynamics, said Hodgon. “This range is where they learn about each other, build trust and confidence, and work on communication and teamwork.”
“It is also the first hands-on exercise where they rely on a mission brief and squad level guidance from NCO leadership,” he added.
Battles encouraged squad leaders to make a plan, delegate roles to squad members, disseminate information and communicate effectively during execution.
“Initially the squad is faced with a six-foot distance to a platform six-feet in the air and will only hold three members, he said. “Most teams do not plan further than getting the squad on the obstacle.”
He added that mistakes made on this course sometimes contribute more to the lesson.
“To see them realize a squad member is left behind is a tragic moment,” said Battles.
Like physical models challenging the Army’s Warrior Ethos, most of the 17 obstacles on the FLRC range will hold the same result at the end if the mission isn’t planned correctly.
Battles affirmed this is where strong mentorship is key in leadership development.
“I love being an instructor, he said. “Especially at this early phase of training where positive reinforcement will make a Cadet more likely to gain confidence in their own leadership qualities and feel capable to train others.”