What is CLDT and why is it important?
Cadet Leadership Development Training, or CLDT, is one of the most notable summer training exercises that West Point offers. Over the course of two summer weeks, Firsties and Cows expand their leadership competency with capstone military and leadership training. In fact, CLDT is the best the United States Military Academy has to offer for cadets to train their tactical, leadership, and decision making skills under stress, and under real life training scenarios.
By the time a Firstie sets off to CLDT, they have taken plenty of Military Science (MS) Classes; MS 100 - “Introduction to WarFighting”, MS 200 - “Fundamentals of Small Unit Operations”, and MS 300 - “Platoon Operations”. In the classroom, cadets learn the fundamentals of Military Science; tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs); land navigation; and weapon proficiency. In terms of leadership, cadets have learned on campus and in the classroom through a General Psychology for Leaders class, Team Leader responsibilities, and a West Point Leader Detail, among other things. CLDT is where cadets get to put what they’ve learned to the test.
On the Job Training.
Cadets assume key leadership positions during CLDT, including: platoon leader, platoon sergeant, squad leader, as well as learning medic and forward observer skills. Leadership roles are rotated to allow cadets to test their skills and gain a holistic understanding of moving as an individual and as a team. While some missions require cadets to act as a quick response force (QRF), other missions may test platoon level ambushes and contact with opposing forces (OPFOR). All of this while cadets are responsible for taking care of their team, planning and resourcing food and other basic necessities, ammo, uniforms, and the information needed to complete the team’s missions.
Another relevant training scenario that cadets will have is in humanitarian aid, with little to no information on the conditions or population to which aid will be administered. The mission includes securing the location, logistics for the transport and delivery of goods, diplomatic interactions with the community and community leaders that may or may not speak a language the cadet understands, and many times a mission to gain intelligence.
No matter the position or the mission, each cadet is trained on their warrior tasks during CLDT, and all of the training is done as if it is the real thing, regardless of stress, sleep, or conditions.
Why so much emphasis on training?
“Preparedness is the key to success and victory” (Douglas MacArthur, 1903 West Point Grad). What makes CLDT so challenging is what makes it so important. These are the most realistic battlefield scenarios the cadets will face at West Point, which familiarizes them with a key reality of leadership: a successful leader must know how to adapt and overcome unexpected obstacles. With an ever changing environment, the cadets must adapt and act quickly, whether it be keeping their wits about them with a seemingly insufficient amount of sleep, overcoming foreign language or cultural barriers through the use of interpreters, or planning a platoon level ambush.
During each mission, cadets are evaluated by experienced military officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), who observe, spot check, and continuously hone the cadets leadership and communication skills. While there is calculated oversight, trainers take a hands-off approach to allow the cadets to truly experience their assigned roles, which allows cadets the opportunity to experience mission success and failure in a controlled environment.
CLDT prepares Firsties with the skills they need to be successful organizational leaders in the Army and in any future career field. Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.