By Jacob Hempen | Cadet Summer Training, Public Affairs Office
FORT KNOX, Ky. — Cadets from 4th Regiment Advanced Camp tossed their personal fears away to an explosive end at a new Cadet Summer Training event in Fort Knox, Kentucky, while Soldiers from Fort Carson served as cadre, ensuring the cadets received training similar to that of a basic training Soldier throughout the month of June 2019.
Throwing dummy grenades, as well as an assortment of different tactical grenades, is not something new to CST, but what is new for the cadets is throwing live fragmentation grenades. Just like with Buddy Team Live Fire exercise, cadre go out of their way to make sure that the cadets are safe throughout it all.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Van Houten with 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was the range safety officer who emphasized safety and that the cadets knew exactly what they were doing before holding a live grenade.
“Prior to going to the live bay, they have to go through the mock bay brief and training,” Houten said. “The mock bay is here to simulate what it is going to be like at the live bay, and then they have to go through the same steps at the live bay.”
Houten said that this training came about because Gen. Stephen Townsend, the former commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, wanted the cadets to do what the enlisted Soldiers were doing in basic training.
However, this knowledge was not the only thing Houten saw as a potential benefit for cadets at the range.
“For some of them, this is their first time handling a grenade, and when they get down to the live bay, they are super nervous,” said Houten. “But after they get that first grenade out, (you) realize you can trust your training, and if you have trust in that ability, you’re going to be able to build that confidence.”
Alexia Allen, a cadet from Middle Tennessee State University, hopes to join the Armor or Military Police branch after graduation; she said was nervous for the training even though it wasn’t new for her.
“I actually have (thrown grenades),” she said. “I qualified while I was in basic training, but I was still nervous because the experience I had at basic training was kind of different. You had drill sergeants yelling at you, but this (experience) was a lot more at ease and more relaxed. They knew not to yell at you so you wouldn’t be nervous.”
After heading to the range, she found there were no issues moving forward.
“I feel more relaxed, more confident and more accomplished,” Allen said.
Cadet Matthew Hinkley from Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, said he was nervous having never handled a grenade before, but thanks to the range cadre, he was able face his nerves head on.
“The cadre here works really hard to make sure you understand (the task),” he said. “If you mess up the first time, they’ll retrain you; and they stress that retraining isn’t bad, it just means you have a bit more to learn to fully understand what you’re doing.”
As someone wanting to branch into the infantry field, this was a skill Hinkley would need to master. After throwing his first live grenade, this ended up becoming his favorite event.
“I feel so much more confident in myself now that I’ve passed this training,” Hinkley said.
Hinkley wasn’t the only one who needed to be comfortable with the “boom.” Cadet Ra’shun Gerald, Norwich University, plans to join the field artillery branch after graduation and knows that will require being skilled with explosions, he said.
Like the other cadets, Gerald saw this event as a means to personal growth, and said it should become a regular event.
“It’s definitely a big confidence booster,” Gerald said. “People say the (gas) chamber builds confidence in your equipment, but I feel like (the grenade range) actually builds confidence … Because knowing you can (grab) that live grenade, pull the pin … throw it and know that you cleared (the) wall and made that explosion, you gain a lot of confidence in who you are.”