West Point cadets at the United States Military Academy from the school’s Irregular Warfare Group recently learned some good lessons on Unconventional Warfare. In a recent exercise in New York, the cadets got a first-hand taste in the complex world of UW and how their thinking will have to be creative when operating in the realm, no matter what career field they choose after graduation.

It is a good practical exercise that many of these junior Army officers will someday draw upon when they go out into the world that is rife with insurgent movements, multi-tiered organizations fighting for supremacy and the civilian populace caught in the middle. And the cadets also became familiar with the fictional nation of “Pineland.”

Their mission was to enable indigenous resistance movements to disrupt military and political activities in the breakaway self-proclaimed “People’s Republic of Pineland” in order to facilitate the forcible entry of a conventional task force to liberate occupied eastern “Pineland.”

While this mission was part of a fictional scenario without any actual shots fired or lives lost, the very nature of Unconventional Warfare was on display.

This multi-day training event in Esopus and Hyde Park, New York, involved over 60 USMA and Preparatory School cadets along with faculty from the Departments of Social Sciences, Chemistry and Life Science, Military Instruction, and the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic, and external support from the Scenic Hudson environmental and conservation group, the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office and former senior leadership from the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

“This unique exercise offered cadets the chance to think creatively about solving practical problems,” retired Col. Mark Mitchell, former commander of 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) who served as the resistance movement’s top commander in the exercise, said. “It provided them an opportunity to consider the myriad of complexities of insurgencies at every level, including how local populations might perceive the actions of both insurgents and foreign sponsors. All of these opportunities will benefit the Cadets as young officers, no matter where they serve.”

Training emphasized task organization, mission analysis and planning, property accountability, negotiation skills, emotional intelligence, small unit tactics proficiency, advisor skills, navigating moral dilemmas, and creative problem-solving at both the tactical and strategic levels.

Events included a planning and team building phase, waterborne infiltration, link-up with resistance auxiliary, reacting to enemy checkpoints, meeting with and building rapport with resistance force commanders, assessing resistance capabilities, advising both guerrilla forces and nonviolent civil resistance groups, and coordinating multiple indigenous and U.S. interagency efforts.

The training event also got the blessing and support of many civilian and police organizations lending a realism to the exercise that will be invaluable to the cadets as they tried to navigate thru the difficult UW scenario.

Besides the creative problem solving that the cadets had to come up with, it gave them some training in small unit tactics, advisor skills, negotiation with resistance or guerrilla leaders and task organization.

This training event will serve them well when either working with or possibly becoming part of Special Operations Forces in the future.

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Photo courtesy USMA West Point