News story

British Officer Cadets make their mark at US academy competition

British Officer Cadets taking part in this year's Sandhurst Cup in America have won the top two best international team positions.

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The British Cadets also won the Navigational Streamer, presented to the overall winner of the land navigation section of the two day challenge.

Fifty teams took part in the annual inter-company military skills competition at the United States Military Academy West Point, including seven international guest teams from Canada, Australia, Afghanistan, Taiwan, Chile and two Royal Military Academy Sandhurst teams.

The two day competition combined a six minute team marksmanship challenge, as well as a four and a half hour combat assault challenge including obstacle courses, command tasks, mental and physical endurance challenges such as a rope ravine crossing and casualty carries, a 90 minute navigation course followed by a river boat crossing and a first aid casualty assessment, before finishing with a series of mental military challenges.

The teams then needed to complete a written test to evaluate their observational skills during the course, and complete a final weapons check.

This is the third year the competition has run in this format, but there were a number of new elements to the event.

Captain Edd Olfield, the British Exchange Officer at West Point, said:

We try to make it different each year to challenge the cadets to solve problems. We want to train them in some of the intangible skills soldiers are facing on operations nowadays where there are scenarios you can’t predict.

Getting the cadets good at problem solving and assimilating information, and making good decisions based on all of that, is what the Sandhurst Competition is all about.

The ‘miller site’ [the sixth challenge of the second day] was a completely new site this year designed to test combat fitness rather than the ability to run a mile and a half as quickly as you can or sprit 100 metres.

“It’s really directed at having good core body strength, and accesses some of the things you do in situations like combat casualty carries, ammunition carries, moving ammunition on to higher perches and off higher perches, as well as there being a big navigational section. > > The whole course is designed so that the result comes down to how you think on your feet.

For the British teams, who traditionally have always done very well in the competition, their overall positions of third and sixth was disappointing but nonetheless impressive as they were two of the few teams who completed the entire challenge, which ultimately added 90 minutes to their overall time compared to many of their competitors.

As some of the last competitors in the staggered start time, they also faced the challenge in pouring rain when the heavens opened later in the day.

The look of elation on completing the challenge however was clear after nearly four months of intense training during the few periods of free time in their Sandhurst course.

It was epic!” said Officer Cadet Pip Hollins, at the finish line, having completed the challenge on her birthday.

I’m exhausted - it’s probably one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was good. It’s amazing to have finished it now though after all the training. I can’t believe it’s over so quickly, especially after the nerves this morning when it got delayed and pushed back - we were all twitching so I can’t believe it’s all over.

“It’s been a good birthday. I think! And as a team I think we did well. We didn’t leave anything out - there wasn’t anything left at the end. We gave it our best and that’s all we can do.”

Officer in charge of the Sandhurst teams, Captain James Fern agreed:

Overall the teams performed fantastically well. The red team were placed third and the blue team were just outside of the top five in sixth.

At the shoot they were fantastic and we received several comments from the director of the Sandhurst Cup and all the other military academies about the professional manner our teams shot.

We were placed slightly lower than we would have liked though that meant they had a larger challenge than perhaps we would have wanted going into the second day.

“But both of the teams really stepped up and gave it their all. On every single challenge they had the drive and the determination to try and catch up the time difference that we lost out on from the first day. Unfortunately it was not to be and one of the West Point teams for the first time in over 20 years were able to win the competition. > > That said though we are very proud of what our teams have been able to achieve, the manner with which they approached the competition, the grit and determination they showed on the second day to try and claw back that lead and also the manner in which they approached the competition and particularly the style which they showed at every stand. They were a credit to all at the academy and a real credit to themselves.

Team captain for the red team, Officer Cadet Calvin Smith concluded:

The team were absolutely amazing. They performed really well, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more, especially on the second day. It was a brilliant competition and the team taking it next year should be looking forward to it.

Published 26 April 2011