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Choppers give cadets ride to campus

Matt Bramanti | Monday, October 6, 2003

Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the four Black Hawks flew again. The UH-60 utility choppers, belonging to the Illinois National Guard, transported dozens of Notre Dame Army ROTC cadets back to campus Sunday after a weekend-long field training exercise at Ft. Custer, near Battle Creek, Mich.

For about an hour Sunday, the field between Pasquerilla Center and the Joyce Center was transformed into Landing Zone Irish, as the quartet of large helicopters descended briskly. Cadets in full combat gear swarmed out, and the choppers took off after less than three minutes on the ground.

Lt. Col. Kelly Jordan, professor of military science and commander of the ROTC battalion, said the use of air transport allows for a better training weekend.

“It reduces travel time and increases training time,” he said.

The training exercise, conducted two or three times a year, allows cadets to practice tactical and leadership concepts they learn in the classroom. The weekend included day and night land navigation maneuvers, practical problem-solving courses, and squad tactical exercises or “STX lanes.”

In the STX missions, groups of cadets are placed in simulated combat conditions and given an objective, for example, attacking enemy bunkers or clearing a simulated landing area. Cadets learn how to take prisoners, deal with changing battlefield environments and react under rifle and artillery fire, simulated by blanks and loud-but harmless – explosions.

“We wanted to give the battalion a cadet-run training opportunity,” Jordan said. He went on to praise the younger cadets in his command, saying they brought enthusiasm to the exercise. “The freshman class in particular was outstandingly motivated,” he said.

Cadet 2nd Lt. Patrick McHugh, a junior, said the weekend was worthwhile.

“We got a lot of valuable training out of it,” he said. “We did things that are hard to simulate in the Notre Dame environment.”

Cadet adjutant Leoncio Gil agreed, saying the event will prepare juniors for the training they will receive at their mandatory summer training camp.

“The way we’ve run this FTX, I think we’ve set these kids up for success this summer,” Gil said.

Jordan, who came to Notre Dame three months ago from Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., said he aims to reduce the time burden on his cadets, while maintaining a high degree of military professionalism and competence.

“They’re students and they’re cadets and they’re campus leaders. They have a lot of responsibilities to juggle,” Jordan said. “ROTC should complement the college experience, not dominate it.”

Along with the members of the Fighting Irish Battalion, several civilians were on hand to witness the helicopter landings. Cory Berk, a 9-year-old from Naperville, Ill., was on campus to watch an Irish hockey game, and saw the cadets arrive.

“I think they were so amazing,” Berk said.

Not to be outdone, his younger sister Samantha said she hopes to one-day ride in the Black Hawks.

“I want to be a cadet,” she said.