Zeroing in on Cadet Field Training: CFT cadets learn ‘impact’ of field artillery

Story by Michelle Eberhart Assistant Editor

July 13th, 2017 | News, News and Features
An ROTC cadet zeroes in on his target as he participates with members of the Class of 2020 in Basic Rifle Marksmanship during Cadet Field Training July 7 at the firing range area at West Point.  Photos by Class of 2020 Robert Norwood
A Class of 2020 cadet cleans his M-4 rifle after firing it during BRM training at CFT. See Page 3 for story and photos on field artillery training during CFT.  Photos by Class of 2020 Robert Norwood
 Class of 2020 Cadet Kyle Herschberger drops a mortar round into a M252 mortar during training July 6 in the training areas at West Point.  Photo by Class of 2018 Cadet Alex Werden
 A Soldier from the 10th Mountain Division summer detail task force teaches the cadets how to observe and call for indirect fires (artillery and mortars) using the Lightweight Target Designator Rangefinder during Field Artillery Day at Cadet Field Training. Photo by Class of 2018 Cadet Alex Werden

Some U.S. Military Academy Class of 2020 cadets got to experience the “sound of artillery” last week during Cadet Field Training. To clarify, that sound is (a very loud) BOOM!

During Field Artillery Day at Camp Buckner, cadets were given the opportunity to explore one of the 17 possible branches they could commission into upon graduating as second lieutenants in the United States Army.

Throughout the course of the day, cadets learned how to plan, called for and executed indirect fires using artillery and mortar fire with live rounds.

“The main thing that we are training out here is the common Soldier task of calling for fire, calling and adjusting indirect fire rounds from both 105mm howitzers and 81mm mortars,” Capt. Ryan Scott explained. “That’s the one event that’s graded and one event that’s common, no matter what your job is, you need to know how to call and adjust indirect fire rounds.”

In addition to learning the basics of FA, cadets interacted with lieutenants and Soldiers from the task force from the 10th Mountain Division, who came to West Point for the summer detail from Fort Drum, N.Y.

“They get to see that team in action and those good professional working relationships making their task happen,” Scott explained.

In addition to observing working relationships in the fields, the cadets got to explore the three main jobs they could perform as FA lieutenants: fire support officer, fire direction officer or platoon leader.

“They get to see people who have graduated in the last one or two years and they’re doing exactly what they were trained to do,” Scott said. “But even if they don’t go FA, everybody’s got to know how to call for fire, or if they go infantry, they need to know all the moving pieces that it takes… you get to see how that process works.”

Cadet Jeffrey Reffert knows that the opportunity to participate in FA Day has been a unique experience.

“If you don’t branch FA as an enlisted guy or as an officer, there aren’t many Soldiers in the other parts of the Army, besides West Point, who actually see this stuff,” he said. “It’s just really neat to be on the ground with these guys, train with them and have them instruct us in what they do, and to see it with our own eyes is a rare privilege for us as cadets.”

This experience has possibly changed the trajectory of his and other cadets’ lives.

“So a lot of us have actually changed our branch choices from infantry or armor, over to field artillery based on this training that we see here,” Reffert remarked. “A lot of it is the excitement of feeling the rounds going off. The fact that pointing the plots and going through the training and being immersed within the field artillery unit itself is just phenomenal. The culture of the branch itself is unbelievable.”

Cadet Jackson Huffstetler had a similar experience.

“I was coming into CFT leaning more toward infantry but today, definitely pushed me over to field artillery,” he said, noting that his father was an FA officer. “I’ve probably committed myself to field artillery at this point, unless one of the other branches during CFT stands out.”

And while not every cadet has committed themselves to becoming an FA officer, most say they had a good time trying out a new skill.

“It was an experience, it was definitely cooler than I thought it would be and I already thought it would be cool,” Cadet Akil Johnson said. “So I mean the sound and the explosion and everyone calling out orders, it seems like it’s a lot, but it’s a lot of teamwork too, so everything is kind of easy when everybody works together.”

Johnson is looking forward to what other tasks CFT has in store.

“This is the first major training event that we’ve had,” he explained. “This whole lane was something that I’d heard a little bit about before, but it was really cool to actually experience what they go through.”

Throughout the course of the month, cadets going through CFT will have the opportunity to explore other Army branches and participate in branch-specific tasks, ending with the CFT Runback on July 30.