Soldiers prepare for deployment by training cadets

  • Published
  • By Don Branum
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Soldiers with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), based at Fort Carson, Colo., will soon deploy to Africa, where they will train foreign service members in how to defend their nations' borders. Before they left, however, their leaders wanted to hone the younger Soldiers' skills as instructors, such as managing their time and their students' meals.

The Air Force Academy offered the perfect venue, and cadets made ideal students, said Army Chief Warrant Officer Rob McCaslin.

The platoon's leaders spoke with Cadet Wing Training Director Col. Michael Pipan, who happened to be sitting next to Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Richard Clark, said McCaslin, a Dallas native. The general endorsed the idea, and the Soldiers met with Maj. John Schroeder to coordinate the training.

Among the approximately 40 cadets who attended the training were members of the cadet combat shooting team and Sandhurst competition team. The training scenario involved rescuing an injured pilot from a crash site and transporting him to a safe house in the Academy's mobile operations in urban terrain training area. Cadets practiced their tactical movement skills in Jacks Valley before switching gears and engaging an opposing force in the MOUT area.

The operational training is part of a program called "Polaris Warrior," said Tech. Sgt. Jon Hyder, the NCO in charge of weapons and tactics for Cadet Wing Training. The initiative aims to introduce cadets to war-fighting skills in addition to more traditional Academy activities such as room inspections and Saturday morning inspections.

After the exercise, the Army instructors offered feedback in the form of an after-action report. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jarion Halbisengibbs, who grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., advised cadets to use the terrain to maximum advantage.

"The woods are your friend," Halbisengibbs said. "You want to stay hidden as much as you can. Think of the road as a wall area -- it's an area you have to avoid or cross. Use terrain analysis and terrain association to own the area you're moving through."

Saturday's scenario was based on a mission that the detachment commander, Army Capt. Scott Manley, experienced while deployed to Afghanistan. In that mission, his team had to enter a village with little information beyond the identity and location of the individuals -- a foreign ambassador and his bodyguards -- who needed extraction.

"When we got to the village, we found their vehicle with about 8,000 bullet holes in it," Manley said. "We found the ambassador and his guards, who had been shot and were basically fighting for their lives."

"All the stuff we give you is based on something someone has experienced," said Halbisengibbs, who received a Distinguished Service Cross for heroic actions while deployed to Iraq in September 2007.

The group wrapped up with a question-and-answer session about the Soldiers' deployed experiences, with questions ranging from challenges of working from within a foreign culture to the risks of training forces who may not remain aligned with the United States in the future.

One of the cadets thanked the Soldiers for coming out, saying, "You can't pay for training like this."

Manley, a native of Orange County, Calif., said he appreciates the cadets' presence as well.

"They're helping us prepare for a mission where we'll do the same thing deployed," Manley said. "We hope this is the start of a persistent relationship, both here and at Fort Carson."