Cadets from the Brazilian Army’s (EB, in Portuguese) Agulhas Negras Military Academy (AMAN, in Portuguese) represented Brazil in Sandhurst, a military skills competition carried out in April 2019, at the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point.
Teams from 12 countries participated in the activity: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, England, Germany, Greece, Japan, Mexico, and Poland, as well as 50 U.S. teams.
Sandhurst is an annual competition that was established in 1967 to motivate cadets to achieve excellence in their profession, through rigorous physical and mental challenges. The competition takes its name from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom, which gave USMA a British officer’s sword. The idea was that the sword would be the prize in a competition to motivate the development of military skills among USMA cadets.
This was the second time that AMAN students participated in Sandhurst. A new feature of this edition was the participation of female cadets. Eleven cadets made up the Brazilian delegation: five third year students — four from Infantry and one from Engineering — and six second year students — four from Infantry and two women from Logistics.
The U.S. activities started with a Military Symposium on April 8, 2019, where the international teams debated and shared experiences around the theme: “Training to Win Tomorrow’s Wars.” On April 9-11, cadets carried out reconnaissance and final adjustments for the competition, which took place April 12-13.
“Cadets walked 44 kilometers, carrying a backpack which weighed about 20 kilos. They also competed in the following activities: operational circuit; pistol, rifle, and grenade launcher shooting; boat navigation; daytime and nighttime navigation; doctrine and general knowledge testing; obstacle courses; and transport of wounded, among other tasks,” said EB Captain Gabriel Espindola Queiroz Pereira, an AMAN team trainer who participated in the competition. “All tasks sought to test cadets’ skills in aspects such as initiative, leadership, hardiness, persistency, esprit de corps, comradery, courage, creativity, focus, and precision.”
The Brazilian delegation spent two months preparing for Sandhurst. The trainings took place at AMAN, following a schedule based on the competition. “Cadets trained to run on a variety of terrains and distances; ropes courses, military pentathlon; weightlifting; 8, 12, 16, 20, and 24-kilometer marches; operational circuit, first aid, and other activities,” said Capt. Queiroz. “English classes and nutritional orientation services were also available to competing cadets.”
According to AMAN Cadet Edgar Vianna Werneck de Castilho Daniel, a third year Infantry student, being a part of Sandhurst contributed to many of the attributes required for his professional training, especially as a small units commanding officer. “It’s a challenging competition that tests the limits of all participants. During the competition I acted as leader of the squadron. The chance to lead a group of service members under adverse conditions develops leadership and esprit de corps. During activities we also experienced the challenges of commanding a unit, which promotes learning opportunities in a situation where the risk is simulated, but very realistic,” said Cadet Castilho, a second-time participant in the competition.
According to Capt. Queiroz, Sandhurst benefits students’ operational development and integration with foreign cadets. “The challenge is even greater as it takes place in an environment, language, and climate other than what they are used to,” he said. “The competition is also a way of promoting AMAN’s cadet training method.”
AMAN Cadet Vitória Bezerra Costa, a second year Logistics student, spoke with Diálogo about the privilege of being a part of the first team, exclusively comprised of AMAN cadets, in a high-level military competition. “My greatest personal challenge was the preparation, but I believe that the greatest challenge for the team was understanding the systemic demand of the competition,” Cadet Vitória said.
According to her, the experience was a great opportunity to improve professionally and technically and important as a future EB combat officer. “We had the chance to interact with other cadets from other academies, to exchange experiences and get to know more about other cultures and habits around us, which was very enriching both personally and professionally.”
“Although we came from different cultures and spoke different languages there were no obstacles for communication. We befriended cadets of many nationalities,” Cadet Castilho said. “Aside from being a competition that requires physical fitness, it also focuses on cognition. The team is given missions and has to plan how to complete them efficiently and promptly, all while being tired and stressed out.”