BYU cadets fight to improve as peopleand as stud

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    By GRANT R. MADSEN

    Two students in BYU’s ROTC program participated in some of the most intense, hands-on military training the Army provides as part of their service in the Utah National Guard.

    Brian Davis, a recent BYU graduate from Ryebrook, N.Y., spent two weeks of realistic training at Fort Polk, La., where he fought in a full-blown, simulated war.

    Jason Roundy, a senior from Lindon, majoring in Japanese, parachuted into the wilderness of Alaska to prepare for the environmental destruction the Army would face in the event of a chemical weapon attack.

    “It’s like laser tag, but better,” Davis said. “Cadets go to Louisiana and simulate a war in every aspect.” Forces stationed at Fort Polk are trained to act like the enemy: guerrilla forces attacking the Army in a U.S.-friendly nation, he said.

    The battle is fought using laser technology that registers enemy shots as hits. In the event of a hit, a hypothetical injury determines the fate of each cadet during the battle. There is even a “dead prison” where fatally injured cadets must spend 24 hours before returning as replacement cadets, Davis said.

    “The situation was so real that at one point an actual … Soviet helicopter flew over our heads and landed really close to where we were hiding,” Davis said.

    During the war game, Davis’ squadron, a military intelligence unit, twice engaged the guerrilla forces in close combat. He said one of the fights forced them to retreat into the deep swamps near the Mississippi River, where the alligators and snakes made the experience even more memorable.

    The entire situation was observed by an official who acted as umpire, taking careful notes on the unit’s performance and giving feedback, Davis said.

    Roundy said the training he received in Alaska also involved “everything you would do in a real mission.” His unit had the responsibility to investigate an enemy SCUD missile attack.

    In the case of an actual attack his unit would be sent out to find the SCUD and test for chemical contamination, he said. “We make sure the area is safe, so that later forces won’t be hit with a chemical hazard.”

    Both Roundy and Davis said ROTC training like this has impacted all areas of their lives. Davis said the Army has helped him to become a better student. “I now focus more on end goals. Thanks to my military training, I’m better at writing papers, studying and communicating with others.”

    Roundy said he has gained confidence because of the ROTC. “I may not be the biggest or the strongest, but I know I’ve got the heart and guts to stick to something until it’s done, no matter how formidable the task.”

    Second Lieutenant Eric Nebeker, a recent graduate of BYU’s ROTC program, participated in similar training when he was a cadet. He said that war games, rappelling and jumping out of airplanes help cadets learn important life principles.

    “The ROTC teaches you to be goal oriented and better manage your assets. The training is important in helping a person attain their full potential,” he said.

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