Attention! The Art of Playing Army

Heavy breathing. Goggles fogged over in the cold. Surrounded by forest. Separated from your squad without information on the remainder of the platoon. Working your way through enemy territory, alone.

Cadet Joshua David Farr and his BYU ROTC comrades had one mission: capture the enemy’s flag.

The goal sounds simple, but it required crossing rugged terrain, keeping the squad intact,  and assaulting the opposition’s stronghold at the top of a hill covered in trees—all part of the culminating event at the BYU’s leadership development exercise

Cadets plot their points on a map for land navigation training.The annual two-day training held at Utah’s Camp Williams gave BYU cadet seniors the opportunity to put the leadership skills they’ve gained in the last four years to practice. The upperclassmen provided valuable hands-on instruction to their fellow cadets through extensive drills and taught the art of navigation in both daylight and the dark of night.

“In class you learn the theory, in lab we try to put it into practice, and then we do the leadership development exercise to try and encapsulate all of the training,” Major Jeff Hendricks says. “It’s like learning to swim. You can read all of the literature on bouncy and hydrodynamics but at some point you got to get in the water. The best way to learn leadership is to lead.”Setting up security while moving toward objective to practice a platoon attack.

The nearly thirty hours of training prepared the Army rookies for the culminating event: paintball warfare. Though the only true threat of danger was simply the splatter of paintballs, the exercise taught a powerful lesson. And for Farr, it was made all the more difficult after he lost his squad.

“If you don’t take this seriously when it’s pretend, you’ll be way behind the curve when it’s for real,” says Farr, a sophomore in geospatial intelligence from Gig Harbor, Washington. “I could have easily gotten separated from my squad with actual bullets being fired. Seven guys could have easily gone down and I may have not known where the radio was with no idea how to get back. That can happen for real.”

Ultimately, Farr was able to team up with a fellow cadet and successfully completed the exercise, gaining some important skills along the way to help prepare him for a future career in Army leadership.

“A lot of people may look at all the training and time a cost too high to pay for some fun paintballing, but it gave you a lot of new ways to think, to learn and to realize what it’s like in the real-world versus on paper,” explains Farr.

At ease, solider.

A team returning from land navigation training.