Missed you guys!
I got back a few days ago from a month of training out in the woods of upstate New York. I might have posted a trip report earlier but i spent the time since I've been back in a party-hopping drunken stupor in the Hamptons.
Combat Field Training is just a bunch of rising sophomores at West Point sent out to the woods to dick around for a month, blow things up, spend a couple nights in the field and learn how to patrol in enemy territory, survive and evade, utilize platoon and squad tactics when setting up patrol bases, ambushes, raids, recon missions. Basically, we learned many things that involve laying down in the dirt for many, many hours at a time while bugs crawl up your sleeve and you pray they're not the poisonous ones.
Here are some pictures!
We rucked a lot. Rucking is walking with a big backpack on. Average 50 pound ruck, 20 lb equipment vest, plus weapon and ammo. Crew-serve weapons (machine guns and big machine guns) and their ammo and equipment get distributed to unlucky platoon members.
Can you spot the machine gunner laying prone?
We ate these! They suck! But sometimes they have m&ms that expired 2 years ago.
We looked like this! Is the face paint necessary? No but it looks badass. Each company of cadets was trained, advised and later hunted down by Special Forces ODA, who are ghost-people that get paid to travel the world and kill. They were batshit crazy individuals with incredible tactical knowledge and a great desire to fuck with cadets. Actually though, we learned a lot from the SF guys about who our current enemy really is, and what our current wars really look like.
We were also followed around by a Task Force of 11B guys (Infantry) from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. They were responsible for grading each individual and correcting us when we fucked up before ODA could find out.
If they failed, we got blown out of our base or movement with simulated artillery rounds, and cadets were randomly selected with a "You're fucking dead!" after which we would have to carry them and their equipment to an absurdly faraway Casualty Collection Point to be 'revived.' I once had my "entire fucking leg blown off you fucking windowlicker" because I did not move tactically enough when assaulting the nearby enemy. I was in debt to the guy that had to drag me until I had to save him the next day for not identifying a tripwire connected to a (fake) IED on the road.
This is what C4 looks right after detonation when being used to clear concertina wire. The C4 is a "push" charge, so when we stick a lot onto a metal picket and detonate a charge in the C4, it will turn the picket into a hot knife that cuts barbed wire for us and clears the way.
Two female cadets, not in my company, decided to eat a piece of C4 as per recommendation of a very stupid Specialist and were sent to a hospital, and then removed from West Point :(
A Taiwanese exchange student decided to steal a chunk of C4 and put it in his backpack. He was removed from West Point and then apparently sent to jail :((
We goofed around a lot. It was very hot in the porta-potty, according to my buddy.
We had a rest day on July 4th! The lake was wildly beautiful.
When we weren't doing field exercises related to patrolling, we visited "lanes" for a day or two in the field where members of a particular branch of the Army taught us about their branch. I was able to command a tank crew of my buddies in a $7m combat simulator system, fly in a black hawk, shoot Howitzers and two different mortar systems, various C4-related and combat engineering (destruction) stuff, and so on.
During some day-time solo land navigation I found a downed huey in the woods and carved my initials in it. It was hidden on a hill which was on top of a couple more hills. In hindsight, it was on top of a mountain.
Depending on the scenario, we were allowed to build a hooch, which is kind of like a house:
The one above is a very, very nice hooch. This is the only pic I'll post that isn't mine because it exemplifies my month of training very well. I mean just look at his face!
Here's an incredible album of much better photos if you're interested:
The month of training ended with a 5-day, 4-night Field Training Exercise (FTX) which included a total of 8.5 hours of sleep and a whole load of insanity that I could never begin to write out in a post like this. In a civilian environment I could easily last 2 weeks in the woods at this point. In a pretend "hostile" environment as a pretend enlisted soldier, 5 days and 4 nights was more than enough for me.
In the end we ran 8.6 miles from Camp Buckner back to West Point. It was a lot of fun! This is my squad when we got back; I'm taking a knee on your left.
Now that I've completed CFT, I'm promoted to the rank of a Cadet Corporal, which is 2nd-from-the-bottom at West Point and the same as any other Cadet rank (i.e. irrelevant) in the big Army. When I start my next Academic Year in 6 days I'll be accountable for 1 or 2 incoming freshmen and learn the basics of taking care of subordinates in a non-hostile environment.
I'm happy to answer questions! I'm even happier to be done!
Here's a GoPro montage my buddy put together:
Does West Point wear BDUs, not ACUs (or whatever they're called)?
You mention crew served weapons. I assume that means M249? Is everyone else carrying an M16? Or are M4s standard now? I liked the M249. I cleaned an M60 once. It was far too complicated for my liking. But it was suitable penance for getting to shoot it.
Is that artillery round 105 mm? Towed artillery piece? I was in FDC in my Guard unit but got down to the guns once and shot off a few 155 mm rounds from a self propelled howitzer. Fully detached powder bags, a breach the size of your helmet. Pretty intense. My unit switched to semi-detached towed 105s a year or so later.
Did you dig foxholes? Fuck I hated that. The first four feet wasn't so bad, then it just felt like it could never be deep enough.