ALECIA H. FINLINSO
Army ROTC cadets “tightened up their boot straps” for a 24-hour adventure last weekend at a field training experience at Camp Williams.
The cadets’ first reconnaissance mission started the moment the truck stopped at Camp Williams’ desert scene, west of the Point of the Mountain, on Oct. 18.
The mission was supposed to provide leadership opportunities for the freshman, sophomore and junior cadets. Upon receiving a mission and leading their squad to accomplish it, the cadets’ leadership abilities were being evaluated by their senior cadet superiors.
Following every mission, the cadets gathered to conduct an after-action report reviewing strengths and weaknesses of the leader and his or her instructions in embracing the mission. A new leader was then chosen, and another mission begun.
“It was a good learning opportunity because we were doing things that we hadn’t really done before except for in labs,” said Carl Smith, a freshman from Covina, Calif., majoring in physical therapy. “It’s an opportunity we don’t get very often.”
Soon after dark, the cadets made a quick water stop and took a few minutes to partake of some MRE rejuvenation. MRE stands for Meals Ready to Eat and is the typical food eaten in the army. They have a seven-year shelf life and are about 3,600 calories per meal.
“When you’re out there rucking all day, they are definitely not Sizzler Steak House! The more you work, the better they taste. That’s the goal — to work really hard so they taste so good,” said Jonathan Lambert, a sophomore from Centerville majoring in international relations.
The cadets then reassembled and marched off into the hills for platoon operations. Visibility was poor, making communication difficult. After a few hours of anticipating the enemy’s attack, a simulated grenade was thrown and the school mates raged into battle with M-16 shots and more grenade simulators. No one was hurt, however, because they used blanks instead of bullets.
“When the defense kept moving, it was challenging. The challenge of trying to find the other group without being detected excited the cadets,” said Capt. Bill Boucher, assistant professor of military science.
After the ambush the cadets gathered again. Thinking the night was young — 2 a.m. — they began a six-mile tactical road march carrying their rucksacks on their backs and a weapon in their hands to the mess hall where they were to sleep for the night or, by that time, the morning.
“We started, and everybody was gung-ho thinking, ‘we’ll be able to do it easy!’ Arriving at the half-hour mark, the one-hour mark and the hour-and-a-half mark — then it was getting pretty hard. It was pretty much about trying to keep yourself going while going in and out of consciousness,” said Kerry Kane, a sophomore majoring in business management.
“If we made them walk back in, it would challenge them physically. Then if the weather turned bad, they were still able to accomplish something, they were able to push themselves,” said Boucher. “Incrementally, we push them a little further, and they advance out of their comfort zone.”
The cadets arrived at the mess hall to hot chocolate and then to a cozy spot on the kitchen floor around 4:30 a.m.
They woke to rain and snow, cleaned their weapons and went home early due to the weather. Many cadets expressed disappointment in not being able to complete the events planned for the day, especially the rappelling.
“It’s kind of bad because we miss out on a day of training that these guys only get to do once a semester,” said Jim Oliphant, a senior from Oregon majoring in political science.
“Our prime objective coming out here was to accomplish the things that we did last night — leadership evaluations,” said Lt. Col. Jack Sullivan, professor of military science. “The real training value occurred between the evaluator and the cadet.”
“There are certain skills that in order to be successful you must have, and that’s what we teach,” said Sullivan.
Photo courtesy of Clark Finlinson
ATTENTION! BYU ROTC cadets receive instruction in the mess hall at Camp Williams before going home. Their field training weekend was cut short due to bad weather