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The BYU Army ROTC trains cadets for war.
The ROTC recently conducted a mock deployment at Camp Williams near Thanksgiving Point. The Field Training Exercise was an opportunity for cadets to apply the tactics they learned in class in a real-life simulated battle.
The ROTC leadership created a back story for the “enemy” forces to make the simulation as real as possible, including made-up histories, cultures and religions.
This training was based off of a firefight that actually took place in Afghanistan.
The cadets were divided into two teams, one playing the military and the other playing the enemy. In the scenario, cadets had to secure a mountaintop, where a downed helicopter full of survivors was located. Their objective was to bring the casualties to a safe location.
The teams were equipped with paintball guns to make the battle as real as possible. The fight escalated into a 40-on-40 paintball fight as each team reached the top of the hill.
“I got shot up a lot, I’m not gonna lie,” said Hannah Brau, a freshman from Provo studying human development.
Casual paint balling with friends would not compare to the simulation. The cadets wore full military uniform and used war tactics to achieve their objectives.
“Paintballs don’t work the same as real guns; it’s not an accurate weapon,” said Cimony Greenhalgh, a junior from Provo who is studying recreational therapy.
Greenhalgh said this exercise taught important infantry tactics, teamwork and leadership skills.
Trevor Findlay, a senior studying finance, said the ROTC is trying to train leaders. “We’re not training people to be good killers,” he said. “We’re trying to train leaders who can be adaptive in stressful situations. Everyone has that learning moment.”
Brau said the experience opened her eyes and helped her gain an appreciation for the military.
Chase Dowse, a sophomore from South Carolina who is studying geo-spacial intelligence, said many of the lessons learned are about leadership and communication skills. Dowse said if anyone is looking for a program that will teach leadership skills, this is the program to enroll in.
All cadets took the simulation seriously. In some moments of the ROTC battle, Dowse said, he could feel the fog of war.
After the deployment, the Army ROTC leadership met to discuss the successes and areas of improvement. An after-action report was also written. The experience built unity among the cadets. Dowse said the cadets who worked in those squads drew closer.
The junior cadets rode back to camp in an Apache helicopter, while the older cadets ran back, wearing full gear. As the senior cadets ran, they could see the helicopters flying overhead.
“It really paints a battlefield setting when you’re running and you see helicopters over you,” Findlay said.