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A schoolhouse for leaders

WANG’s 205th Regiment sets the standard

Erik Hoyle moves toward an objective during a situational training exercise as part of the Washington National Guard’s Officer Candidate School training. /J.M. Simpson

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Once Leah Hansen stepped over the line of departure (LD), a test of her leadership skills began.

An officer candidate seeking to earn a commission in the Washington Army National Guard (WANG), Hansen and 10 other candidates recently honed their leadership skills during a situational training exercise (STX).

To become an officer in the WANG, candidates must be accepted into and successfully complete Officer Candidate School (OCS), which is coordinated and conducted by the 205th Leadership Regiment.

It is an intense experience that brings together all levels of experience.

"This is a leadership course, and it challenges the candidates," Capt. Michael Vincent, one of the regiment's tactical officers, explained.

He also said that the candidates range in experience from those who have years of service to those who are new to the Army.

Besides meeting the physical and educational qualifications required to become an officer, the emphasis is on leadership.

"But the most important aspect we look at during this process," Vincent said, "is ‘can this person be a good leader?'"

WANG officer candidates complete a three- phased (Phase I, Phase II, Phase III) training regimen over a year.

"It's comparable to the ‘crawl, walk, run' approach the Army uses for training," said Maj. Victor Pirak, one of the regiment's company commanders.

Headquartered in the Guard's Redmond Armory, the regiment also offers an accelerated OCS training course as well as a four to five month warrant officer school.

In the end, though, the schoolhouse's lessons in leadership are learned in the field.

"We've got a civilian headed our way," officer candidate Yelena Yatskikh yelled.

"I'm lost," the civilian called out.

"Stop!" officer candidate Tyler Rodil yelled as he raised his M-16 to his shoulder.

The civilian froze.

The squad's enemy prisoner of war (EPW) team, Yatskikh and Rodil moved in, put the civilian face down on the ground and searched him.

"He's clean," Rodil said.

Hansen processed the information and decided to let the civilian go.  

"Let's move on," she said. A few hundred meters later, gunfire erupted.

An opposing force - or OP4 - had waited patiently in ambush for Hansen's squad.

One of the squad's two teams returned fire, attempting to suppress by fire the OP4, while another team maneuvered to the left in order to assault the attackers.

As Hansen worked to coordinate her squad's actions, Vincent made the situation more challenging by throwing a flash/bang grenade and smoke grenade into the situation.   

As her team returned fire, another team maneuvered to her left, forming a line of advance to assault on the OP4.

As thick, white smoke drifted over the objective, officer candidate Erik Hoyle, a former Soldier with the 101st Airborne, led the assault.

"These training scenarios force you to be a leader," he said moments after neutralizing the threat.

Former Marine and officer candidate Chris Souza took a moment to reflect on the training scenario. "Coming from the Corps, I was looking for a challenge when I decided to serve in the Guard as an officer," he said. "I wanted to be challenged; I did not want this to be easy, and this training is all that I could ask for."

For more information about WANG's OCS and warrant office programs, visit or call (253) 512-7822.

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