West Point Cadets work with USARAF, train with Italian Alpini
By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs
VICENZA, Italy – Some college students travel to Europe for summer fun and excitement. For two West Point Cadets, they found fun and adventure while working for U.S. Army Africa recently.
Cadets Zachary Bell, 20, and Wesley Mathews, 19, are headed into their junior year at the U.S. Military Academy known as West Point. Bell and Mathews, both system engineering majors, assisted with a command modified and digitized assessment survey and other organizational tools.
Bell and Mathews took part in an Academic Individual Advanced Development program, where cadets work with military or civilian organizations in various capacities during the summer. The program can lead to academic credit and lasts for up to four weeks.
Bell and Mathews worked together for three weeks, transforming a USARAF document into a PDF format to be used to build an assessment data base. Additionally, the two cadets took time to travel to Rome and work with the Italian Army Alpini.
While training with Soldiers of the 7th Alpini Regiment, the cadets had the opportunity to learn the ‘ropes’ by taking part in rappelling and mountain climbing training. Additionally, Bell and Mathew’s trained in areas of marksmanship, chemical warfare defense, night reconnaissance and patrolling.
For Mathews, a native of Dallas, Ga., his trip to Italy was the most significant summer job he has ever had. “This has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” Mathews said. “I was continually impressed with the professionalism of USARAF team members and the Italian Alpini.” His Alpini training was an eye-opening experience.
“I was continually impressed by the Alpini training we took part in. They know what they are doing at all times. They’re very adaptive and make things happen, even if they have limited resources. The Alpini have a very diverse set of training skills and I was amazed where one minute we are rappelling off a cliff and the next moment checking out ski equipment or training in chemical warfare defense,” Mathews said. “The Alpini are very proficient in warrior tasks and drills.”
Pittsburgh, Penn. native Bell said the experience with the Alpini was significantly challenging and different from other forms of military training he has previously experienced.
“Working with Soldiers from another culture is part of the challenge. We were honored to train with the Alpini. They’re an elite group and considered the world’s oldest active mountain infantry troops.
“But, what is most interesting to me is that it’s not all that different from how the U.S. Army conducts training; there are many similarities,” Bell said. “The way the Alpini conduct briefings, tactics and their graphic representation of different units is very similar to the U.S. Army’s way of doing things,” Bell said. “The training emphasized working hard and smart.“
Maj. Brad Kinser of USARAF’s Analysis and Assessments branch of Operations, Movement and Maneuver Division, managed most of the training and project work for the cadets. He praised the assessment project the cadets performed for USARAF. “Cadets Mathews and Bell put a project into effect that would have required other USARAF staff members an investment of nearly 120 hours of straight, uninterrupted work that would have taken away from other higher priority projects. We appreciate that concentrated work,” Kinser said.
“I think they had the self-awareness light go on while they were here and they will be better Soldiers and leaders because of it. It was their first U.S. Army experience away from U.S. Military Academy and they have a better understanding of how the U.S. Army works and how our NATO allies tackle some of the same challenges,” Kinser said.
Next summer, Bell and Mathews with take part in Cadet Troop Leadership Training known as CTLT, where they will shadow an active duty platoon leader for several weeks.