The Steele Challenge
Six weeks ago they were complete strangers. Cadet Basic Training forged them into cadets and trained them as Soldiers. The Steele Challenge served as the capstone event of CBT, Aug. 9-10, and demonstrated through squad-level military skills events that these strangers-turned-comrades have what it takes to join the Corps of Cadets.

The challenge proved that although they came to West Point as individuals, the cohesive units these new cadets formed could overcome any obstacle. It showed they could falter yet push forward, stumble and still succeed. They persevered with the support and guidance of an ever-present cadre determined not to relent until CBT was over for the Class of 2016.

Marksmanship: Squads entered Range 11 to test their marksmanship skills during the Steele Challenge Aug. 9-10 in and around Camp Buckner. New cadets were required to shoot targets at ranges from 50 to 200 meters in three positions: standing, kneeling supported and kneeling unsupported. They had one minute to engage targets in each of these positions before moving to another station where they were required to disassemble and assemble the M249 and M240B weapons.

The Tactical Casualty Combat Care and radio communication site demonstrated their ability to repel an ambush while providing medical assistance and exfiltration of casualties. This was a test of the basic premise of soldiering, never leave a fallen comrade behind, and required them to call in a medical evacuation report after moving the treated casualties to a rally point.

Getting from site to site took its toll on the squads, and many said afterward the navigation proved most challenging, considering it was all timed so there was no time to waste. New cadets were also tested on their ability to accurately throw hand grenades and maneuver a squad across a rope bridge.

The final event to the Steele Challenge, Aug. 9-10, for the Class of 2016 was the inauspicious sounding problem-solving site. New cadets encountered a scenario where their squad leader was rendered unconscious in an attack and they were left to navigate their own way to the finish line. It would require teamwork and ingenuity to race the clock and by devising a plan to get across Lake Popolopen in a Zodiac raft with all their equipment and no paddles. Most squads chose to swim the raft across which proved slower than those who decided to hand paddle, though the swim was decidedly a cooler choice after a long day of activity. Once across, the new cadets had to figure out the best way to get the raft, the equipment and their squad leader down the road, several hundred feet, to the finish line. The raft itself weighed over 300-pounds, and adding additional burden to it had many squads struggling under the weight. However, racing each component separately proved to be the best option, of course, with several variances applicable. Squad leaders had one or two new cadets providing the escort to the end, but lane evaluators said height differentials and weight distribution made two-man carries harder than having just one cadet carry the squad leader.

Each squad visited the memorial for 1st Lt. Timothy Steele at the conclusion of the challenge. There, an audio message from Lt. Col. Brian De Toy, director of the Defense and Strategic Studies Program at West Point, described the Class of 2009 graduate who had once written:

“My favorite time of the day is at 2330 when Taps plays over the speaker in the hallway. For those 20 seconds or so all I think about are the men who have fallen fighting for this country. One day it will play at my funeral and when it does, I pray that I am deserving enough of that honor and the respect that it shows.”

The memorial also included photos, awards and papers Steele had written as a West Point cadet. During the second iteration of Cadet Basic Training, the regiment adopted one of Steele’s favorite sayings, “Actions, not words,” as their motto.
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