Patriot Academy Students Take Extreme Field Trip
(October 30, 2009)
|CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind. -- High
school students from the new National Guard Patriot Academy
took a break from the books and embarked on their first
field training exercise at the ranges here, Oct.16-17.
students, who were once high school dropouts, joined the
military under the National Guard's new program, designed to
give deserving applicants a second chance to receive their
high school diploma, become more proficient Soldiers and
give back to the community.
|Students from the Patriot Academy at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center execute near-and-far security so fellow students can cross the road safely during a training exercise at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Oct. 16, 2009. The students at the Patriot Academy participate in military training while studying for their high school diploma.
"This was not your ordinary high school field trip," said Patriot Academy
Commandant Col. Perry W. Sarver, Jr. "Our student-Soldiers have
opportunities within the academic year to visit museums, attend collegiate
and professional sports events but this weekend was a little reminder that
they are also being trained to be the best Soldiers in the Army National
Students loaded up their gear and arrived at Camp Atterbury Oct. 16. From
the garrison, students marched in full battle gear to the training range.
After arriving, Student Platoon Sergeant Pfc. Ryan Grieger, from Delta,
Colo., occupied the range and ordered his squad leaders to establish
perimeter security while a reconnaissance team prepared to gather
intelligence on the enemy.
The advance party began movement and arrived at an objective rally point
where Pvt. Brandon Deal and fellow squad members crawled through mud and
dense vegetation to determine the number of enemies, their activity, and the
number and types of weapons.
Beyond the tree line, Patriot Academy cadre posed as opposition forces
securing a building armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled
Without detection, Deal carefully scribbled down a few notes and returned to
the rally point with critical information for his leadership.
"I had to low crawl through the forest floor covered in briars," said Deal.
"I thought that was pretty fun. This is way more engaging than a regular
high school field trip. I get to do a lot more. I get to have a sense of
pride that I'm actually training and learning the skills that I need to
defend my country."
Students executed missions throughout the entire field training exercise and
were placed in leadership positions to test and sharpen their abilities.
Company Commander Cpt. Steven Conway, of Somerset, Ky., said the training is
designed to make Soldiers dependent on their own ability and interdependent
on their team.
"As Soldiers progress through the Patriot Academy, they are given more
responsibility to lead themselves with limited cadre supervision," said
"The FTX is a good measuring event to see how much the Soldiers have grasped
the military training we have provided up to this point at the Academy."
Pfc. Timothy Valley of Jacksonville, Fla., said the training proved their
strengths and more importantly where they needed improvement.
"After the ruck march up here and the recon, we went through the improvised
explosive device lane," said Valley. "Everything went successfully. Then we
Valley's demeanor changed from excited to distress. "We had really good
recon and our movement was good, but we had some problems getting into the
Students' and the opposition forces' M4-style weapons were loaded with air
canisters, ammo hoppers and paintballs, making the training more realistic.
From above the shoot house building on a wooden walkway, cadre observed and
advised as the students entered the kill zone.
"If you get hit, go down!" yelled Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Latham, of
Valdosta, Ga. A burst came from the corner of the room. A student splattered
with red paint hit the ground.
"Talk...communicate with each other!" instructed Staff Sgt. Wesley Colinger,
of Harlan, Ky. "What are you going to do...what's next?"
Pvt. Stephen Pruitt from Boiling Springs, S.C., took action and kicked down
an obstruction in the doorway.
"Keep security on the door behind you!" yelled a student. As he entered the
next room, shots rang out. Opposing forces hit two more students. "I'm
Every student had been hit with paintballs by the OPFOR. "Everybody take a
knee and take your mask off," said Colinger after the exercise. He praised
the students for what they did correctly, and discussed areas which needed
improvement to survive in close-quarters combat. According to statistics,
there is a 70 percent casualty rate in military operations in urbanized
"[Explosive action] is really important," he said. "You stack up there [at
the door] and you go! Come in there like you're the baddest man on the
The area at the doorway is referred by the military as the "fatal funnel."
As personnel stack up, it is the point where team members are most
vulnerable to be hit by enemy fire. From there, it takes surprise, speed and
explosive action to minimize casualties and successfully clear a building.
Hesitation was not the only thing that hit the students as they breached the
"Paintballs are a good way to learn because there is no questioning if and
where you got shot," said Colinger. "I don't want y'all to hang your heads
low. At the same time I want you to understand how quickly and how easily
making bad decisions or no decisions or being timid can get you and your
Pvt. Wesley Beck, from Fort Wayne, Ind., said that learning to work as a
team is a lesson that must be consistently taught. "Teamwork was the most
important thing I took away from this FTX," said Beck. "Everything can be
planned perfectly but if it's not executed as a team, everything crumbles."
Students executed their own security plans, identified avenues of approach
and placed rifleman on the perimeter and set up inactive claymore mines.
During traffic control operations the Patriot Academy students interacted
with "host nationals," searched vehicles and processed detainees. Three
different scenarios were presented to the students and were required to
apply escalation of force procedures.
As dusk fell, Grieger gave instructions to personnel at the gate.
"Do not blow those claymores until you call it in!" said Grieger. "If you
see a vehicle approaching, you call it in."
Night patrols were about to begin and students were preparing for contact
with the OPFOR.
"We're pulling security," said Pvt. Jonathan Kern of Martinsville, Ind.
"We've got teams out front, out back, up on the roof and guarding the doors.
We're expecting to get hit tonight."
Kern and his patrol spread out in a wedge formation and began to patrol the
area. OPFOR hid in the tree line and opened fire. The patrol returned fire.
"Get on line!" yelled Kern. "Right side, bound backwards...we got you
covered!" The students bounded back and got behind cover while returning
"We've been doing a lot of training this weekend that we've been rehearsing
over the past three months," said Grieger. "We've been setting up traffic
control points, conducting raids, recon missions and the cadre is putting us
out here to see how well we can execute. The training seems very realistic."
The National Guard Patriot Academy is an accredited high school by the
Indiana Department of Education and provides a high school degree completion
program for dropouts from around the nation who qualify to enlist in the
Army National Guard.
The school is located at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center and features
a main academic building with 21 classrooms, full gymnasium, library,
conference rooms and three dormitories for up to 500 students. The current
class of 47 students is scheduled to graduate in March 2010.
Recruiters nationwide are now accepting up to 250 male and female applicants
for the 2010-2011 academic school year. Interested applicants should log
onto www.nationalguard.com to locate their local recruiting office or
www.NGPatriotAcademy.com for more information.
Article by Army 1st Lt. Kyle Key
Photo by Army
Sgt. William Hill
Army News Service
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