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    US soldier earns place at British military academy

    US soldier earns place at British military academy

    Photo By Christian Marquardt | U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Ben Torgersen listens to instruction from his squad leader during a...... read more read more



    Story by Christian Marquardt  

    7th Army Training Command

    GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – When U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Ben Torgersen was going through officer candidate school, the flag he wore on his uniform never crossed his mind.

    But for the past 10 months as a cadet at the British army’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he’s been reminded every day.

    “The other cadets constantly tease me about it, tell me I’m out of uniform,” said Torgersen, who wears the same uniform as his fellow cadets at Sandhurst, including a prominent British Union Jack on his left sleeve.

    Torgersen, a native of Spring, Texas, is part of an exclusive, but growing, club of U.S. Army officers who have taken part in a program that allows OCS graduates to attend the nearly yearlong British Army Academy in Surrey, England, before returning to the U.S. to continue their Army careers.

    It’s a program that offers junior officers exposure to a broader military world, both tactically and culturally, said Torgersen.

    “For me, it was an early chance in my career to do some exchange officer work and work with another army,” said Torgersen. “Not just the British army, but also representatives of the 20 other countries who are overseas cadets like me at Sandhurst.”

    The first U.S. Army officer graduated from Sandhurst in 2009. Since then, one U.S. officer has been a part of each of the three classes that matriculate through Sandhurst each year, said British Lt. Col. Dennis Vincent, colonel for training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

    “The beauty of it is [the cadets] get to work in a coalition really early on in their career, before they even join the field Army,” said Vincent. “More importantly, they make friends that they’re going to see again during their time in [the military].”

    Those bonds are forged during several field exercises at Sandhurst. Starting last November, the final field exercises take place at the U.S. Army’s Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas in Germany.

    On an unseasonably-warm day in March, Torgersen and his fellow squad members, sporting face paint, grass-covered helmets, and weapons loaded with live ammunition, set off down a gravel trail on the Grafenwoehr Training Areas’ Range 206. Their objective was a small insurgent bunker downrange.

    Torg – as he’s affectionally called by his fellow cadets – took up a position near the rear of the squad. Within minutes, an explosive went off near the road and the squad fanned out onto the low hills to prepare for their assault.

    As the cadets began firing at the downrange pop-up targets, Sandhurst instructors carefully watched the cadets’ progress and quiz them on their tactics. Mostly, they need to remind them to stay down.

    “We need to see whether or not they are capable of going on to lead troops,” said Capt. Charlie Sprake, one of the Sandhurst instructors. “This is a way for us to test the cadets’ ability to think outside the box and prove to us – and indeed, themselves – that they are ready to take on that challenge -- that honor --of leading soldiers.”

    For Torg, the tactics aren’t as challenging as some of the communication. At one point, he removes his hearing protection to make sure he understands what the British instructor is telling him to do.

    “There’s obviously vocabulary differences between the U.S. and British,” said Torg. “My first color sergeant [drill sergeant] was Scottish, so from time to time, it was quite hard to understand him. And my physical training instructor was from Birmingham, and when she yelled I had no idea what she was saying.”

    “But it’s something that you pick-up and learn as you go along,” laughed Torg.

    After graduation from Sandhurst in April, Torgensen will head back to Fort Benning for infantry basic officer leaders course and continue his U.S. Army career.

    “My decision to attend Sandhurst does mean that I miss out on a year of my potential platoon leader time,” said Torgersen. “But I think that going forward in my career, Sandhurst will be a great learning experience and will serve me well down the line.”



    Date Taken: 03.19.2014
    Date Posted: 03.24.2014 07:07
    Story ID: 122427
    Hometown: SPRING, TEXAS, US

    Web Views: 279
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