Story by Sgt. Christina Dion
It’s a process all British Army officers go through to get commissioned. Prospective officers graduate college, then they attend officer candidate school. The process of officer training lasts almost a year. Once the classroom phases are over, the hard work begins. After almost a year of training in Britain, British Army Royal Military Academy Sandhurst cadets navigate the U.S. Army’s 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas to complete their final field exercise July 7-18 before the students are commissioned as officers in the British Army.
“The training for the final exercise Dynamic Victory is a culmination of all the training they have done throughout the year,” said British Army Cpt. Harriett Bell, platoon commander at the school and a 2009 Sandhurst graduate. “There’s nothing new. They are just tying everything together.”
Tying it all together is key, she said. That’s where the real-world mission simulation, complete with a training mission to Germany, comes in. For the third rotation since Sandhurst moved their final field exercise from Scotland to Germany, the cadets proved their skill and internal fortitude as they maneuvered through Grafenwoehr’s live-fire ranges and Hohenfels’ rural and urban training villages to show their instructors they are ready to leave the classroom and move on to lead soldiers.
Although well trained at the academy, Sandhurst cadet James Martin said the exercise was challenging but beneficial. With a 4-kilometer ruck march that Martin described as an absolute hang up, the cadets were tested physically and mentally.
“We are hungry, tired and cold but it’s been a good exercise,” he said. “I think this training is far better (than Scotland) because of the expanse of it. The training areas we have here are more scoped for that, especially with the assets and coalition work with the U.S. military.”
Part of the test was to see if the cadets used assets wisely and requested what they needed for mission success. Unlike at other training locations, those necessary assets such as support vehicles, helicopters, and laser equipment were available for them to use. Also unlike most training locations, the live-fire flanking maneuvers were real. Each team had targets to assault, and maintaining field of fire knowledge made sure there were no real casualties.
“When you have the assets and all the things at our disposal, it creates a lot more freedom to get things like working dogs or helicopters and transport to locations,” he said. “This is literally our final test. This is that hill we have to get over because the next time we do this it could be for real. I think this training has worked well and everyone thinks it’s fantastic.”
Week one of their exercise was at Grafenwoehr for the live-firing maneuvers, which Bell said they touched on in the intermediate term. After that they went into the exercise phase at Hohenfels, which “has roles of rural and urban operations combined with the operations rooms,” she said.
“So pulling that all together creates an opportunity for the cadet to finalize all that information that we’ve done over the last year,” Bell explained.
Another aspect of this exercise compared to the training done in Scotland was the addition of 50 U.S. Military Academy at West Point cadets who joined them. This gave the future officers a chance to create friendships and learn how allied armies work together in the field.
“You can lead each other as commanders regardless of your national affiliation,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Langevin, an infantryman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment at Hohenfels and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the opposition forces the cadets fought during the rural phase of the exercise. “It’s happening now in Afghanistan. You all are our future leaders.”
All of the realism was key in helping understand the big picture, said Martin. “As the staff sergeant said, we can find ourselves working with and for each other in the future. We trained with one another and not only learned our own commands and processes, but each others.”
At the end of the exercise, the cadets proved their skills and accomplished the Dynamic Victory mission. Each cadet will receive their berets July 17 in a ceremony at Hohenfels Training Area, which signifies the start of their new careers as British Army officers.