Mountain Cold Weather Company
screens its candidates
by Cadet Meredith Lewandowski
Norwich Guidon Staff Writer
Norwich University's Mountain Cold Weather Company (MCW) held their annual KAP week, a week in remembrance of two former members who were killed in combat, in order to give the incoming candidates a week of rigorous physical training.
"It's a week long program for incoming freshman who would like to be in MCW," said Spencer Williams, 21, a senior communications major from Harvard, Mass. The week is lead by the upper level leaders in MCW.
There are three levels of training in MCW. The first level they are called Green Sticks, which is terminology MCW uses to describe a first year. If the Green Sticks pass all of the testing second semester in the year, they are then moved up to being Black Hats. Black hats are the ones in leadership positions in charge of the Green Sticks or they just train with the company as a whole, said Bryan Blouin, 19, a sophomore business management major from Londonderry, N.H.
The Rescue Team runs this intense week of training. The Rescue Team is the highest level of training in MCW. They are professionally trained so much as they have been called out in time of need such as Hurricane Irene to help the stranded and to help find missing students, said Casey Blanchard, 21.
KAP week started two years ago in order to "weed out" the candidates that are not committed to the program, said Williams. The aspirants that are not "physically fit enough, or mentally tough enough to go through it" will get cut from the company and will no longer be able to train with them.
In 2009, there were too many candidates for MCW and they did not have the necessary equipment nor the appropriate amount of trainers to guide them through the process, said Williams. KAP week gets the number of people trying out down to a practical number.
"We started with 148 (candidates) and we're down to about 80 right now," said Matt Blanchard, 21, a junior international studies major form Framingham, Mass. These 68 candidates that did not make it left because of medical reasons or they decided it was not for them. The Rescue Team did not have to make a single cut, said Matt Blanchard.
During KAP week, not only does it test the mental and physical strength of the candidates, but the rest of MCW, the black hats and rescue team, give 100 percent as well to show the candidates that this training does not stop after KAP week, said Matt Blanchard. The physical training lasts for the four years they are in MCW and it does not get easier.
The first day of KAP week this year started out with three Army physical fitness tests (APFT), said Jaguar Sasmito, 21, a sophomore political science major from Sacramento, Calif. "The second day was a fitness circuit around Paine Mountain, the third day we ran around campus doing various events, the fourth day was a run up Turkey Hill, and the fifth day was a normal PT session with a run up Dole Hill."
The leaders in charge of training for KAP week kept the planning from the candidates classified, said Richard Johnson, 21, a senior studies of war and peace major from Aurora, Ohio. "They didn't know when it was going to end. We made them take off their watches, we didn't tell them what activities they were doing so they could not judge what was going to happen next."
This was a mind game to the candidates and a lot of them did not have the mental toughness to continue on with the training by mid-week, said Johnson. "I don't think they realized that they had done more just in that first day then they will the rest of their freshman year so staying through the rest of the week was definitely worth their time and effort"
"There were ones that struggled and ones that excelled. KAP week is designed to give them a taste of what they will be doing all year," said Casey Blanchard. "The ones that came in decent physical shape had no problem with it which is the target we were going for."
Those who were already hurting by Wednesday were not allowed to continue through the rest of the week due to potentially causing a serious injury, said Johnson. Wednesday was the last day the candidates dropped from the program; those who made it to Thursday are still in running for becoming a Black Hat.
This was the first year that no one was seriously injuring during KAP week, said Blouin. During an after action review last year, MCW wanted to mitigate the risks for this years training. MCW came together weeks in advance this year to make a risk assessment. They cut out all events that had injured cadets in previous years.
Injuries aside, most cadets were able to drive on due to the meaning of the event as a whole. "KAP week is named after Adam Kennedy and Anthony Palermo, they were former MCW members who were killed in combat a couple days apart," said Williams.
A few weeks into school, the Rescue Team went down to Norfolk, Mass., in order to pay tribute to the flag raising ceremony at the elementary school that was named after Kennedy after he was killed in action, said Johnson.
The team was able to interact with Kennedy's friends and family who really understood the bond that MCW has together. Going through your first year of training in MCW is what connects you with the other members, knowing that you have been through the same conditions, said Johnson.
"If those are two people (Kenny and Palermo) who represent our company, it's a motivating factor in how much we put out to honor them," explains Blouin. "If they were willing to sacrifice for their country, that really describes what kind of person they were and how well they represented the company, the school and the nation."
"If you really want to know what you're capable of, join MCW," said Johnson. "It'll teach you something about yourself by pushing you through the challenges and making you a better leader."