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Advanced Camp Tips/Ideas
This was written by a cadet fresh out of advanced camp. It has a lot of key points that your MSIII Instructor harps on daily. We hope it helps you in your Advance Camp prep.
In this, the second installment of the ongoing Advance Camp Prep series, I will offer a "grab bag" of ideas that worked and did not work at Advance Camp, for myself and the individuals in my platoon. Important Note: these are extras and will only help if your fundamentals (tactics, APFT, D&C, followership) are strong! It is my hope that you will save these packets and review them prior to both FTXs and Advance Camp. Also, if you hang on to them, you can build on them for next year's MS IIIs when you become the Battalion trainers.
1. One of the most important keys to getting an E or O as a Sqd or Plt Ldr is using time effectively. It is your most precious resource. Almost every day, you will have some type of "down-time," whether it be on a bus for 20 minutes or during company training rotations. As a leader, use this time to give hip-pocket instruction on your current or next Camp training objective (Land Nav, BRM, etc.) Something that I wished I had done was to get about 10 pages of butcher paper (poster size) and write out some diagrams for hip pocket instruction, fold them up, and bring them to Camp with me. For example, let's say your next day at Camp is Hand Grenades, and you are a sqd ldr. If, at the platoon meeting before light's out, you can pull out a well-drawn sheet with diagrams of hand grenades that you have prepared and give a 5 minute class, you are going to look really good. Also, this preparation is easy! Sometime during the next couple of weeks, get the Camp schedule, get the FMs you will need, draw the poster, and write up a 3X5 card with the important information. You could make up 10 in an afternoon, cover all the important blocks at Camp, and have them available to whip out at the appropriate time this summer. Also, not only will you look totally squared away, you will be helping many cadets who go to Camp with very little preparation . Ideas for classes: Land Nav, BRM, NBC, Artillery, Camouflage, M-249 SAW, M60 machine gun, Air Assault Ops., Rappelling, Rope Bridges, and Commo. (Note: I received two O-rating spot reports at Camp for these types of classes).
2. Barracks maintainence is critical! Immediately when you arrive, the platoon leadership should divide the barracks into squad duties. This will not be enough (it never is). Take the initiative to write up a schedule (again on butcher paper) for fire guard duties and post it on the inside of the latrine door. Example, 2200-2300: sweep downstairs bay and wipe down tops of lockers. With approximately 7 fire guard hours per night, imagine how much work can get done! My platoon made this realization 3 weeks into Camp. You can start on day 1. Also, meals and maintainence are super difficult. Here's how we did it. In the morning, let's say your platoon is third in order of chow in the company. Send a runner to the chow hall so he can come back and tell the PL when the platoon before you has one squad left to eat. Then send three squads to eat. Leave one squad behind to clean. When your first platoon member is done eating, he comes back to your barracks and relieves one of the guys who is cleaning. The next guy does the same. And so on. This way you always have one full squad cleaning every morning, all morning! Then, do the same for dinner. It really works well. But it takes trust and coordination.
3. Set up a fire escape plan. (This might seem really cheesy, but it's important, works well, and if you're the first in your company to do it you'll look really good!) Again, with butcher paper, diagram and post prominently a schematic of the platoon barracks and where every individual and squad exits in case of fire. Also, where they will meet and get accountability outside. Then when you are in a Plt leadership position, have a fire drill for the morning formation. Instead of simply falling out of the barracks, practice the fire plan. Inform everyone the night before and use a whistle. It shows initiative, sensitivity, and makes a lot of noise.
4. Every squad has a personality. Every squad has someone who becomes the backbone, who people come to for advice. Be it. One way to do this is to become the resident Land Nav expert. Get really good and get your questions answered now. Assume duties as the "permanent" compass man for your squad and platoon. This will be crucial at the end of camp during tactics. No one really wants to take responsibility for guiding the platoon. If you always volunteer for it, you will become a fixture in that job because you are reliable. It means always knowing where you are, carrying the map, advising the PL, and generally getting less sleep during field time. It's much easier to simply follow along. But, remember we are training to be leaders. So lead. The TACs will definitely notice. It worked for me.
5. Camp is also designed to place you in the clutch position. Expect it. If you are hit by a near ambush, you know what to do. Assault through violently. If your buddy becomes a casualty, go back and get him. Carry him if necessary, no matter how far. Don't be satisfied with half-done jobs. Perform to and exceed the standard. You will encounter these scenarios very soon and you will be evaluated on your performance. You know what to do ~ you must execute when the time comes. No other action (or in-action) will be acceptable.
6. If you want to immediately get on the Company TAC Officer's bad side, here's how. When you are chosen for CO, XO, or 1SG, give a nice long speech about who you are, what school you are from, how you are from the mighty 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th platoon, and why the Company is going to have an outstanding day of training! Periodically during the day, have unnecessary formations to recite the day's safety motto and be more than 0.005 seconds late to any training. Make sure that you don't know the exact number of people in the company at any time, who's on sick call, and who has decided to wander off. Freak out, run around yelling at people. Also, as the CO be extremely visible, loud, and prone to micromanagement. Believe me, you will see people who do these things. You'll also see the smoking skid marks on their head after the Company TAC Officer evaluates them.
7. Don't do stupid things. During the last 2 or 3 days of Camp, there are always people who get destroyed. They are so happy that the whole thing is almost over that they forget one important thing: it's not over. Don't disobey the guidance put out by your PLT chain of command or TAC Officer/NCO. Many cadets like to go off without telling their squad leaders and use the phone when they are not authorized to do so. If you know that you are prone to these sorts of things, watch yourself very carefully the last couple of days. Stay focused.
8. True Story: (This is from Jesse T. Pearson, from the Panther Battalion) During All-American Challenge, the whole platoon was really beat. We had been running missions for three days straight. The last mission was a 3,000 M tactical movement with a platoon-sized raid patrol on an enemy bunker. Movement was really tough through thick vines and 0% illumination. It took four hours to reach the ORP. We were rushed. Everything was going OK, though; we set up support and assault and waited for the initiate signal. It never came. I was in the support element and both of our 60s jammed. We had to call the PL and ask her what she wanted to do. She started crying on the radio. The stress of 72 hours of combat missions had totally gotten to her and she couldn't take any more. She tried to pull herself together and lead the assault, but she fell apart and the PSG had to take over on the objective. The OPFOR was laughing at her at that point. All the while, the TACs were busy writing. I also found out (I won't say how) that she peered out dead last in the platoon. Lesson: As a leader, you must always maintain control and can not afford shows of excessive emotion! If you work as hard as you must to do well at Camp, you will reach a breaking point at some time. Camp is designed specifically for this purpose be ready for it! This is the true test of a leader and it will occur if you do your job correctly. Maintain control and continue the mission.
9.. Lastly, remember my warning. It's easy to get caught up with all these extras and not focus on the fundamentals. Without a rock solid basis in tactics, APFT, D&C, and followership, these ideas will not help you! Hammer down the basics first. Then work on the details.