Week four closed with a flurry of activity and graded measures. After the excitement of Blue Thunder (despite the obscenely long wait for the Ropes Course), we were hit with back-to-back-to-back tests. First up was the second consolidated written test (CWT). Like the first CWT, this test covered specific lessons from broad subjects like the Profession of Arms, Leadership Studies, and Warfare Studies. I turned things around this time and didn’t miss any questions. That was a nice surprise.
We also had a not-so-nice surprise. Normally, the flight commanders meet with the flights after the test to immediately get test results and go over any questions. But Snake Eyes was nowhere to be found. Instead, another OTS staff member came to our flight room and informed us that he was at the hospital with some kind of illness. We all had the same thought as soon as we heard that—spending six hours thirty feet in the air at the top of the Ropes Course, exposed to the high wind and bitter cold we had experienced, would have done anyone in. We just hoped that he would be okay. As it turns out, he had the flu and strep throat—and we were going to be without our fearless leader for the rest of the week.
The afternoon after taking the CWT #2 and reviewing it with the temporary Snake Eyes replacement, we did our informative briefings. With Snake Eyes out, two different OTS staff members judged our briefings. As noted in my last post, my 5- to 9-minute briefing was about the conflict in Mindanao (the southern Philippine islands) between Islamic terror groups and the Catholic majority government. I was feeling just okay about it—not great—because we simply didn’t have that much time to prepare and I had spent most of my spare time studying for the CWT #2. But I did pretty well and came away with a good score.
The last two days of the week were devoted to the Leadership Reaction Course. This was described to us as our final exam—a last test of our ability to incorporate and apply the leadership principles we’ve been studying for the past month. Each member of Echo Flight acted as team leader for one obstacle over two days, and when not acting as team leader you were assigned to be a follower/participant, a safety, or a timekeeper.
Thursday was bitter cold. We shivered and chattered our way through eight obstacles. When we finally finished for the day, I was a human popsicle. My brain was iced over; my hands and feet nonexistent. Never in my life was I so glad to have a last name that started with a letter towards the back half of the alphabet. The last obstacle of the day was led by Lt McGuire—which means that instead of having to break myself out of a solid block of carbonite like my man Han Solo, I got to march home, defrost, consider everything I saw from the other team leaders, and sketch out a plan of attack for my obstacle, which would be tackled first thing on Friday morning.
It was a blessing to have the extra time. Not only was Friday warmer by about ten degrees, but Snake Eyes was back to judge my obstacle and get us pumped up. I had a fresh team and a morale boost, so I felt pretty good about my chances for success, despite a steady pounding rain that beat down on the corrugated tin roof of the course, making it difficult to communicate.
Alas, it was not to be. We did a pretty good job on my obstacle, but we didn’t execute as well as we needed to get my entire team to escape over a five-foot wall using a four-by-four wooden beam, a four-foot steel pipe, and ten feet of rope. But we took a great shot at it. And the completing the obstacle isn’t really the point of the LRC; we are graded on our leadership ability—things like delegation of duties, holding people accountable, encouraging information sharing and brainstorming, and motivation—not on whether we get a mission complete. My team worked well, and I was happy with my score.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a mission complete at all over the two days. We were close on many of them; if only we had 21 minutes instead of 20 I think we’d have finished three or four, including the one that I led. But we all really enjoyed the challenge of the LRC and we learned a lot from it. We also laughed a lot, given the Leeroy Jenkins moments that kept happening when team members decide on their own to just go for it, screw the consequences. (If you don't know about the cultural phenomenon that is Leeroy Jenkins, watch the video below.)
We were all exhausted by the time we finished up with LRC on Friday. It was the kind of satisfying exhaustion you feel after final exams. All of our graded measures are done. Only one week remains, and we’re spending most of that week at parade practice. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.Echo Flight had acquitted itself well over the past month. We were overall flight of the week (FOW) for the Guardians squadron each of the three graded weeks; we took academic flight the first two weeks and athletic flight the last week. Unfortunately, we never won honor flight out of the entire class; that kept going to Golf Flight, which was stacked with scholar/athletes. We all masked our jealousy of Golf with outward loathing, but it was a thin disguise. I was close with a lot of the members of Golf, and they were, despite my best efforts, hard to hate. Good for them.