BYU ROTC army cadets undergo hands-on training

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Kal Holyoak
Cadets Hyrum Dean, Greyson Link and Kal Holyoak sit in a Black Hawk as part of the ROTC helicopter event last Thursday. (Kal Holyoak)

Real-life experience doesn’t get much more real than it does for the BYU Army ROTC. The ROTC uses an active learning environment to bring its cadets up to scratch.

On Oct. 28-29, 2016, cadets participated in a 48-hour field-training exercise. On Oct. 20, 90 cadets flew in a Black Hawk (UH-60) helicopter at Camp Williams, located close to the Point of the Mountain.

Maj. Ben Ashton and Sgt. Byron Hunter organized the helicopter event in conjunction with the Utah Army National Guard, who provided two helicopters seating up to 10 people. The purpose of the event was to give a “familiarization flight” to cadets and let them see the process of flying an Army helicopter.

Cadet Kal Holyoak, a senior in the ROTC program, participated in this event for the third time.

“It’s always exhilarating and it’s always fun being with your fellow cadets,” Holyoak said. “It gives you an idea of some sort of feeling of being in the operational army.”

Although Holyoak hopes the event shows the adventurous side of the ROTC and encourages people to look into the program, he also said he hopes it will promote Army values.

“The whole point of ROTC and training officers is to develop Army values like loyalty, duty and honesty,” Holyoak said. “It’s very crucial to what we’re doing, and it’s not just about adventure and fun. It’s about building character and mature adults who can serve in the military, but also have a huge impact on society at large.”

Kal Holyoak
From left: Cadets Jacob Anderson, Josh Huston, Peter Abernathy, Spencer Hansen, James Leblow, Ian Frandsen and Thomas Niedfelt were on site at Camp Williams where the ROTC helicopter event took place. (Kal Holyoak)

Cadet Tanner Reed is a sophomore in the ROTC program, and this was his first Black Hawk experience.

“It was exhilarating,” Reed said. “There are a lot of people who look at the Army and think it’s hard work, but we have a lot of fun, too.”

Reed aspires to become an Army officer one day, and the flight event gave him a glimpse of what that experience may be like.

“I would say that anybody who wants to give the Army a try, they won’t regret it,” Reed said. “It will help them in a field whether it’s related to the Army or not.”

Cadet Mark Petersen, a senior in the ROTC program, has now participated in the helicopter event four times.

“Anyone riding a helicopter for the first time might feel a little nervous because it’s different,” Petersen said. “But the more you do something, the more familiar you become with it.”

The Alpha Company of the BYU Army ROTC after the training lab for the helicopter event.
BYU Army ROTC’s Alpha Company stood at attention after the Black Hawk helicopter event on Thursday, Oct. 20. (Kal Holyoak)

Petersen said the helicopter rides are still enjoyable, but he emphasized the important lessons he learns through the event each year.

“One, I learn to trust my equipment,” Petersen said. “Two, I learn to listen to the people who are in charge, and three, it teaches me to push myself beyond the point that I’m comfortable which helps me to learn.”

Cadets are required to undergo safety training prior to boarding a Black Hawk. Training includes going over basic rules like approaching the helicopter from a perpendicular angle and boarding only when given the signal. Cadets must also wear the proper uniform, including standard issue Kevlar helmets and eye protection.

On Oct. 28 and 29, 95 cadets participated in a field training exercise at Camp Williams. The event’s purpose was to train cadets to use Army skills to solve problems and function under stress. The event included a platoon attack, rifle shooting and a 10-mile run with 35-50 pounds of gear. Cadets also participated in a nighttime land navigation training with just a compass, map, pencil and military protractor.

Cadet Candace Pace is a sophomore in the ROTC program and has participated in the field event three times. She said it’s always fun, and she was looking forward to the rifle marksmanship event.

“Through this whole experience, I hope to learn how to be a better team leader,” Pace said.

Cadet Jacob Lee, a senior in the ROTC program, helped organize the field training exercise. He said all the events are designed to promote teamwork.

“There’s going to be an obstacle course you have to do in groups because it’s impossible to do alone,” Lee said. “All the events are based on team building, and none of the events you should be able to do alone.”

Lee said the exercise would give the cadets an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned and give them a sense of what Army life entails.

“The military is run off of a field-based environment,” Lee said. “This is an opportunity for people to operate with a deadline, to perform under stress, to succeed under stress. It gets people accustomed to work in an environment where failure is not an option.”

Visit the ROTC website to learn more about the program and how to become involved.