Cadets successfully navigate deep waters, skies of unique MIADs:From the Foxhole…‘From the Centers of Special Warfare!’

Capt. Jannelle Allong-Diakabana Department of Military Instruction

July 19th, 2018 | News, News and Features
U.S. Army cadre at the Special Forces Underwater Operations School monitor a student during rescue dive training June 6 in Key West, Fla.  Photos by Robert Lindee
Trainees attending the Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course, which is taught by Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, perform open water ocean dives with closed-circuit rebreathers. Rebreathers remove exhaled carbon dioxide and assist in allowing divers to recycle their own air for extended periods of time during underwater operations.

U.S. Military Academy cadets participated in both the Air Force and Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course and the Special Forces Military Free Fall School earlier this month.
Both dive courses are extremely advanced and competitive for operational forces, so cadets who gain these rare opportunities prepare diligently over a long period. Graduates are awarded the Combat Diver Qualification Badge.
Ten out of 19 cadets attended and successfully completed AFCDQC or SFCDQC. SFCDQC is a six-week course, while the AFCDQC is a seven-week course that is taught at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School’s Combat Diver Qualification Course at Key West, Florida, respectively. CDQC is considered one of the most difficult advanced skills courses for Special Operations Forces.
“Learning to think decisively and critically, through in-water evaluations and field training exercises, is something that I can use within the Corps of Cadets and as an officer,” recent graduate, Class of 2020 Cadet Andrew Blomquist, said.
Blomquist appreciated the opportunity to meet and train with members of the Air Force special operations community.
This summer, USMA cadet graduates of either CDQC was at a historical high, with five out of 10 graduating from the SFCQDC and five out of nine graduating from the AFCDQC. USMA cadets who aspire to attend CDQC begin to prepare for the course early on through their participation on USMA’s Combat Dive team. The preparation, known as pre-CDQC, lasts for months and to qualify, cadets undergo vigorous and continuous physical and intellectual assessments.  In the fall, the team hosts tryouts in order to identify a training population for pre-CDQC.
Combat Diver qualified cadets, faculty and staff take the lead at the tryout and then in training and preparing pre-CDQC cadets in accordance with the First Special Forces Command’s Maritime Assessment course regulations.
Col. William B. Ostlund, director of the Department of Military Instruction, was instrumental in securing additional allocations and opportunities to a number of first-time schools.
“We have some of the very best cadets and future Army officers at West Point,” Ostlund said. “These cadets invest hundreds of hours honing skills during Cadet Summer Training, on A/C weekends, but also in clubs that include military-like skills. Where possible, we seek to identify cadet skills and turn these skills into a military qualification.”
Many of the cadets who graduated MFF are current members of the USMA Parachute team. The skills learned on this team are transferrable to a military skill and Military Freefall.
The Military Freefall School is also operated by the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, 2nd Battalion.
The four-week long course focuses on wind tunnel body stabilization, parachute packing and an introduction to military freefall operations. Upon graduation, students receive the Military Freefall Parachutist Badge.
According to the NCOIC of the USMA Parachute Team, Sgt. 1st Class Ianmichael McGlynn, MFF instructors throughout the course were continuously impressed by “the cadets’ attitude, character, humility and ability to learn.”
Already avid and experienced jumpers, the cadets prepared for MFF with guidance and mentorship of faculty and staff who are MFF qualified and their experience in the air served them very well as they prepared for the MFF School.
What may have been the greatest challenge for the cadets from the parachute team is the adjustment from sport parachuting they are trained to execute, to a tactical method of jumping.
“Being able to perform like tasks in a military environment eliminated the disconnect I had between skydiving and a method of infiltration,” Class of 2020 Cadet Andrew Winski said.
Class of 2020 Cadet Vienna Morrison, a USMA Parachute team member for the past two years, said, “MFF was an unparalleled opportunity that I am extremely grateful for.”
She acknowledged that, “Sport parachuting is definitely a lot different than military parachuting.”
“We acknowledged the need for a progressive training model that captures (individual and club) investment and seek to marry cadet interests and skills with a military qualification,” Ostlund said.
He referenced a former cadet from the climbing team, 2nd Lt. Anthony Thompson, and the opportunity to attend a military school such as Air Assault School and Rappel Master.
“Although he didn’t get the opportunity to go to Rappel Master, 2nd Lt. Anthony Thompson (USMA Class of 2018) will serve as the mountaineering lane officer-in-charge for the mountaineering lane at Cadet Basic Training. This is progress,” Ostlund said.
For the remainder of the summer, cadets who earned the opportunity during the academic year tryouts will participate in other challenging Military Individual Advanced Development courses like Survival Evasion Resistance Escape School and the Sapper Course.