James Anderson is an Army colonel, battlefield veteran and Master of the Sword at the school that turns out renowned military leaders. He's not afraid to say it: Combat is scary.

"I was all by myself, the only American with about 680 Vietnamese, out in the jungles, up in the mountains, and I was afraid," he said. "I'd seen all the John Wayne movies and John Wayne was never afraid."Fear is something every soldier in battle has to fight, but the U.S. Military Academy, where Anderson is head of physical education, never really focused on fear until this year, when he began teaching a mandatory course for seniors.

Anderson graduated from West Point in 1956 with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. commander during the Persian Gulf war, and considers a lack of preparation to deal with fear a weakness of his own training.

"I've made it kind of a crusade that I'm going to tell every young person I meet that's going into it, this is the way it's going to be," he said. "Be prepared to accept it - you're going to be afraid. What you need to do is deal with that."

Drawing on his two tours of duty in Vietnam, Anderson began speaking about fear last July at Fort Hood, Texas, giving six lectures a day to thousands of troops on what he calls "War Fighting Fitness."

Intrigued by the intense interest at Fort Hood, Anderson assembled 36 instructors. In October, he began planning a presentation for seniors at West Point. Coincidentally, it came on the eve of the allied attack on Iraq, but the cadets initially were uninterested.

"From what I'd heard, pretty much everyone thought it was something we had heard before," said cadet John Elkin of Iowa Falls, Iowa.

It wasn't.

"When I was talking to the cadets, it became very quiet," Anderson said. "You could hear a pin drop. I could have said that at any other time two years ago and it wouldn't have gotten nearly as much attention.

"But now every one of them knows cadets who last year were sitting in the seats they were sitting in and (this year) suddenly found themselves overseas in combat. It was much more real to them."

After the speech, which was given at the start of the two-week break between semesters in January, the seniors were split into groups of three or four.

They were required to put in two hours a day over a 10-day period, reading history books and novels dealing with war to develop a creative image of what battle would be like.

The object was to develop a training program to prepare soldiers for the war each cadet created in his mind. They also devoted an additional four hours a day working on papers 10-12 pages long. Individual presentations were given at the end of the course.

When it was over, the cadets were presented with a certificate, even though they didn't receive school credit for it.

"We really never thought about that before the class," said cadet Todd Rumbles of Alpena, Mich. "It really opened my eyes. Before, you just wondered . . . It's very appropriate for the senior class. Now we realize it could be us who's getting shot at."

Anderson plans to build on what was learned this year. The course will be a requirement again next year for the senior class, which usually totals 900 or so cadets.