Only four weeks into school, cadets armed with M16s firing blanks executed objectives for their training exercise on Fort Richardson.
Unlike most college classes, Army ROTC teaches cadets not only in the classroom but also in the field, where they are evaluated as potential military leaders.
Master Sgt. Donald Ramey, an instructor with Army ROTC, extolled the value of the infantry training model the program uses.
“That is what the Army uses, and quite frankly, it is the simplest to set up because we don’t need a lot of resources such as tanks and Bradleys,” Ramey said. “All we need is a pair of boots.”
But the simplicity of the exercise, in comparison to other Army training models, did not ease the uncertainty many felt going into the weekend long mission.
“I had my hesitations because one half [of the cadets] has military training of some sort, and the rest are civilians with no prior experiences except the past four weeks,” Cadet Sam Smith said. “If you take someone off the street and put them into a militarysituation, it’s a tough change.”
As the exercise progressed, these apprehensions were lifted, and the cadets were not only able to achieve many of their objectives but have some fun while doing so.
Smith took an opportunity early Saturday morning to boost morale while incorporating training into an objective. The objective was simple: the instructor’s truck represented a hardened target that they would have to assault and attack through as if they were in real combat.
During the initial planning of the attack, Smith had expressed it was a “bad idea” as the instructors were in the truck and presented a potential variable in the squad’s objective.
But the squad was successful and took control of the area, followed by a run-through of a scenario involving searching a cadet who acted as wounded enemy combatant.
Once the morning practice drills using the shouting of “bang” to simulate gunfire was complete, cadets formed up, ready to enter the training area where they would start to fire blanks.
The training only became more difficult inside the wooded course, as cadets faced an ambush played by two other cadets, both with prior service with deployment experience.
“It’s the best job there is—we’re the opposing force,” Cadet Geoff Vanhorn said.
“We try to simulate what it would be like to come in contact with the enemy.”
Vanhorn and his partner yelled in the foreign languages while attacking the cadets, lending the exercise a haunting amount of authenticity.
Those who had never gone through military training learned how to use the M16 assault rifle, as well as the importance of always keeping the weapon on their person in a combat zone. They also now know to use the short break they received during debriefings to eat a bite from their MREs and the importance of staying low during attacks.
As the semester continues, these experiences will continue to grow and the cadets will have further chances to improve and develop as leaders.