The spring semester is packed with ROTC activities. In addition to the rigors of academics, those in the Early Commissioning Program (ECP) must fulfill a number of training events and exercises to commission as officers at graduation.
Air Movement Operations
Among the more visible and audible activities involved a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter. Initially intended as transport to the spring Field Training Exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap (FIG), poor weather forced cadets to deploy on buses to FIG and delayed the helicopter exercise to the following week. When the weather cooperated, the helicopter landed on the parade grounds.
“This is among the more exciting exercises,” said Joshua A. Meyer, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army and Professor of Military Science, VFMC. “For the military, helicopters are a routine form of transportation in tactical and non-tactical environments, so knowing how to load, unload, and the overall characteristics of this helicopter is new, exhilarating, but incredibly important.”
ROTC Cadets conducted cold load training by loading and unloading while the helicopter is shut down. Once proficient, Cadets conducted hot loading as the aircraft is running and blades are spinning. The Chinook executed three separate lifts allowing all Cadets the opportunity to hot load and fly a 15 minute route for a birds-eye view of the local area.
While not full Field Training Exercises, Mega-lab exercises are intense and focused training events which augment weekly lab exercises conducted at the College. Also conducted at Fort Indiantown Gap, Cadets target key tasks critical to their success during Cadet Summer Training (CST).
In the most recent Mega-Lab, Cadets aimed at excelling in basic rifle marksmanship with the Army M-4 Rifle and conducting additional land navigation. Prior to taking to the range, day one had Cadets doing land-navigation in the morning and then transitioning to the indoor Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) to master the basics of Army marksmanship.
The EST is a weapons simulator that supports individual weapons qualification through the use of realistic rifles, a large movie-theater style screen with digital targets, and a state-of-the-art computer system that provides immediate feedback based on the Cadet’s performance. On day two, Cadets moved to the zero and qualification ranges. Here they found extreme weather conditions of cold, high winds and near white-out conditions. The qualifications range is a notoriously difficult range, heightening the challenge to succeed. Using live ammunition, 94 percent of the Cadets qualified on their individual weapons; the remaining six percent will attempt to qualify at CST but established an incredible foundation during Mega-Lab.
“Our Cadets have a reputation for performing well above average and have been known to outscore some of the senior military colleges,” said LTC Meyer. “There is always good-natured competition among Cadets and schools to do well on this crucial military skill.”
Field Training Exercises
Preparing for success at CST means demanding field exercises prior to successful completion of a Cadet’s freshman year. The focus is on platoon level operations, said LTC Meyer.
Every Cadet receives at least one leadership evaluation in a key platoon position in order to evaluate his or her ability to brief an operations order, rehearse, and execute a tactical mission such as a raid, attack, ambush, movement to contact, or reconnaissance.
Working as a unit, the class successfully executed operations in the FIG training area, establishing night patrol, sleeping in 30’ weather with rain and successfully completing all requirements.
“It was challenging,” said LTC Meyer. “But this environment and terrain was much harder than what they will experience at CST. This is intentional so they experience tough, realistic training setting VFMC Cadets apart from others in Cadet Command.”
LTC Meyer credits the highly skilled and professional Cadre and Cadet leadership which enhances all training events on or off campus as the true reason VFMC Cadets will succeed at CST and well into their careers as active duty Army, Reserve, or National Guard officers.
While graduation marks the end of one set of experiences, it is the commencement or start of something new and different. The experiences at VFMC fully prepare Cadets to commence the next phase of their lives.