Rooks get a trial run of new leadership training program

A four-year cadet training program is currently in the phase of beta testing at Norwich University with the goal of making cadet training more professional and interesting.

On Jan, 24, the Adaptive Leader Training and Education program took place across the NU campus. The program was tested during Tuesday Afternoon Training (TAT).

“We have been doing some critical analysis of the training program for all cadets and in so doing we saw some opportunities presented to us that we could take advantage of and make the cadet training more professional, more focused, more interesting, more challenging, dynamic, exciting and fun,” said Col. Rick Megahan, the Fourth Battalion Assistant Commandant

The development of the program started before Christmas 2016 and the primary focus of the program is to develop leadership skills for first-year Corps members.

This would be accomplished by putting the rooks into a compressed environment that requires them to move with speed and intensity while making quick abrupt decisions.

The program requires students to execute primary, designated tasks in a certain period of time. Depending on the results of those primary tasks the first year cadets are given fragmentary orders or additional smaller test to complete.

The first-year students were given “small leadership exercises so that we can asses their decision making, their ability to react, change, and their ability to think quick on their feet,” said Lt. Col. William Passalacqua, one of the school’s Assistant Commandants.

The program is based on the U.S. Army Situational Training Exercise (STX) program. Three rook squads from Third Battalion and three from Fourth Battalion were administered the STX as part of the beta test with specific training exercises that had three different components.

The components included the initial Platoon Operation Orders, followed by the fragmentary orders that brought rapid decision- making and tactical decision-making exercises into their existing mission.

As the rook squads conducted the exercises they were observed, coached, and mentored by upper classmen non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

Observer coach mentors (OCMs) were responsible to issue the platoon operation orders at FAT and then, as their title implies, work with the platoon as a coach and mentor while making observations on the platoon’s performance.

At the training session, the OCM is also responsible for issuing two fragmentary orders to the squad during the course of the situational training exercise. At the conclusion, the observer coaches would conduct a brief informal after action review that tied the whole exercise together.

“Tuesday was a first mission of about 15 minutes in duration, then a change of mission that was a fragmentary order to do a different task for another 15 minute duration and a second fragmentary order to do the third component of the overall STX,” Col. Megahan explained.

One of the exercises took place on Disney Field at the volleyball courts on campus. The squad had platoon operation orders to move as quickly as possible to identify a simulated toxic waste area.

The squad then received their first fragmentary order, which was to retrieve an item that was in the toxic area. The squad was only allowed to use materials that were provided to them such as planks and ropes.

“Unfortunately, this squad didn’t succeed, but that’s okay. It’s about how they attempted to solve the problem and how adaptable they were in the first place,” Col. Megahan said.

The STX program seeks to place rook squad members into the squad leader positions during the exercises. For the first half of the exercises the upperclassman will serve in their traditional roles as squad leaders. During the second half, rook members of the squad will be placed into these leadership positions.

“We are going to accelerate the start of leadership development of the rooks much, much earlier than we have done in the past,” Col. Megahan said.

This is just one program that is being tested. There will also be other programs such as an NCO academy, staff academy, and officer’s academy. These programs are meant to better prepare those in the corps for their assignments at NU regardless if they go into the military or a civilian career.

For years a concern has been a lack of leadership opportunities. This program allows for all members of the corps of cadets to have a leadership role.

“Well, we always knew we would have senior privates, because we don’t have a rank for everyone, but they were kind of a void. We don’t have a program for them and if they’re not on a commissioning track, then what are we doing?” Lt. Col Passalacqua explained.

The program serves as a leadership evaluation for everyone who is involved in this exercise. Many students that would otherwise not have the opportunity were given the ability to see how they would perform as a leader.

“I think the execution went well and the idea of it is to get more people involved with training underclassman and having upperclassman training is really great and it gets more people motivated to do things within the corps,” said Jacob Piotrowski, a 21-year old junior and business major from Geneva, Ohio.

The Adaptive Leader Training and Education program and other programs like it are being considered to provide more training and positions and for greater growth in the corps. Ultimately, they could allow for different programs to be used to help develop leadership qualities for a wider spectrum of Norwich University students.

“When I was a freshman we got to see leadership rather than participate in it. It would have given us a much more confident approach to leadership and put us in a position where we would have had to develop our critical thinking and leaderships skills in order to accomplish whatever task was sent to us,” Piotrowski said.

The program only went through an initial beta test, but was received well by those who were involved in the STX.

All parties that were involved in this STX enjoyed it, from members of the corps who acted as mentors, to the rooks that were challenged with certain tasks.

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