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The setup:

We have space cadets who have ascended the ranks of their military order, and they're ready to go through some final Trials of Fitness with their head-honcho and soon-to-be commanding officer. He takes them to several different environments (perhaps in space in their starfighters, and perhaps on alien worlds where they may encounter alien flora and fauna) to prepare undergo these final Trials.

What are trials they might undergo in order to test the proper skills for being a space cadet? I'd be curious to hear of scenarios designed to test specific skills from real military training that could be adapted for space cadets.

Assumptions:

  • The space cadets are human for all intents and purposes.
  • Their society hasn't been at war for a long time, but it's required that every top-notch space cadet get this special training when they reach this rank.
  • The head-honco CO takes them in small teams to do the training.
  • They have probably already undergone several years of military training.
  • These trials may or may not be deadly if the cadets fail.
  • The trials do not have to all involve spaceships. For example, the CO might take them onto a planet to do some training specific to a certain skill s/he is testing.
  • Commenters asked if there is artificial gravity. Let's say yes. They also asked what will the cadets do: pilot starships (big and small)
  • Others indicated that "cadet" is the wrong term to use for high ranking military officers. Assume whatever rank makes sense to you based on the question.

Possibly relevant:

https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/22901/combat-training-for-a-multi-species-society#=

The military application of predictive modeling

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    $\begingroup$ Have you read Ender's Game? What about Starship Troopers? $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Mar 3, 2016 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ What are some examples of Trials they might undergo? seems to be entirely idea generation $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Mar 3, 2016 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ @bowlturner What would be a better way to phrase this question? $\endgroup$
    – alkah3st
    Mar 3, 2016 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ @bowlturner This question for example is more or less the same: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/22901/… $\endgroup$
    – alkah3st
    Mar 3, 2016 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ Kobayashi maru! $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:30

6 Answers 6

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As the edit notes, "cadet" isn't really the right word.

  • Consider the Royal Navy submarine command course. Experienced officers get first an intensive course and then an intensive evaluation before they get to command subs on their own. The training covers technical aspects of shiphandling and the ability to cope with stress and exhaustion.
  • Stress and exhaustion also feature in special forces schools on land. They try to simulate the stress and terror of being shot at with shouting instructors and too little sleep.
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    $\begingroup$ The Royal Navy course example is helpful. Also, officers who attempt the course can't retry it, and failing means they can't ever pilot a sub. High stakes, which is great for storytelling. $\endgroup$
    – alkah3st
    Mar 4, 2016 at 14:15
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As the previous answers have indicated, cadet is usually a rank reserved for personnel still in training, typically with no out of classroom experience.

The description you give though is one of advanced training given to personnel have already proven they've mastered the basics (e.g. special forces training).

Basic Skills

Your "troopers" should have mastered all the basic skills. The should be familiar with and able to use all equipment they would normally encounter in their job. If the equipment is the right type (e.g. survival equipment), they should be able to use the equipment without thinking about it.

Advanced Skills

In the training you describe, your troopers will learn advanced skills to make them more valuable team members to the CO's team. This might be hacking, sniper, demolitions, close combat fighting, communications/cryptographic, etc. Which skills they would learn would depend upon the role of the unit and its likely needs as well as where that particular trooper fits in the unit. You can expect each team member to be in the top 5+% of the population in these skills.

In most cases, all unit members will be at a minimum competent fighters in a wide range of skills.

Survival/Environmental Skills

Your "troopers" will learn to survive and accomplish their mission in a wide range of environments which include all of those they're likely to encounter during their mission plus many they aren't likely to encounter. If this means running around on an icy Moon of Jupiter, suitable training for that mission will be provided.

EE training

Escape and evasion training. If your troopers will receive training about what to do if they become separated from the unit, how to operate to decrease their chances of getting capture and what to do if they are captured by enemy forces.

Interrogation Resistance

Troopers entrusted with very valuable information may receive training on how to resist torture. The goal isn't to prevent them from revealing the information but in delaying it. Hopefully it's delayed enough that your team isn't harmed by the release of information.

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What skills were taught at Cadet Training? Tests are an assessment of what is expected knowledge/skill/ability.

The point of training/school is to teach those required skills and knowledge. Start with what Space Navy expects from its personnel, design your training regime around that, and then design your assessments as the opportunity to show competency in those expectations.


Side Note:

Cadet sounds like the rank of someone about to enter the defence force. People completing bootcamp/initial training are often given the rank of Pvt/AB/AC/etc, and then promoted as they gain experience and progress through further training (but mainly experience).

A soldier should have a moderate NCO rank by the time they are picked for any elite squad.

The wording of the question implies that they're already a service person. As such, they will already have a military rank.

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probably problem solving and instinctive stuff like that, things that cant be trained or taught and cant be programmed to be done better by a advanced computer. anyone can become physically fit and it would probably be a required part of the training; if the setting has interstellar travel and combat, it would also be logical that most of the basic operations of piloting would be completely automatic. i know a lot of universes try to justify space fighter combat being handled mainly by humans by saying that humans are more creative or quicker on their feet or whatever, but any civilization that has such advanced technology in other fields really shouldnt have any problems with making pretty good AI. also, related side note about starfighters: it would probably be a better use of resources, not to mention much more plausible, to have the cadets take control over larger drone carrier ships and focus on directing the larger scale movements of the drones (yes, i know thats what enders game is about. there is reason its so famous). anyway, the main things you should be testing for: intelligence, lateral thinking, strategy & tactics, and maybe diplomacy if you want them to also be explorers.

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  • $\begingroup$ In some stories there are cultural, religious or legal reasons for why advanced civilizations do not use advanced AI in combat. The Books series dune and partials for example $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2016 at 3:33
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    $\begingroup$ that would be a good excuse of you really wanted to have have dogfighting IN SPACE. i think that the imperium from w40k has similar laws restricting AI development, but they probably stole that from dune... $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2016 at 23:26
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Test one. Alien invasions simulation. Location earth. Method: computer simulator.

Test two rescued operation. Location: space Method:real ships, fake in dangered crew.

Test exploraction: Location: uninhabited plant. Goal find a object hidden on the plant.

Test 3. Attach simulation Goal destroy an enemy military space station. Location earth Method: computer simulator

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  • $\begingroup$ I can't decide if "exploraction" sounds like adventurous or kinky. $\endgroup$
    – user6511
    Mar 4, 2016 at 4:32
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A fundamental problem with your question is that "space cadets" is way too broad.

If they have to do everything, the training program will take 20 years or something ridiculous. Anyone who graduates from the program will end up as a jack of all trades, master of none.

A more practical approach is to have subspecializations. Separate sci-fi military operations into several different branches: capital ship operations, scouting and exploration, science and engineering, fighter pilots, marines (specializing in ground combat in widely varying planetary environment), colonization, logistics, med/evac.

No serious modern military of world-class size rolls everything into a single blanket category. At the minimum, there will typically be separate branches for ground troops (army), sea warfare (navy), and airborne combat (air force). There's a good reason for this.

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