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ROTC trains in Michigan

Robert Singer | Monday, September 22, 2008

Army ROTC cadets returned Sunday afternoon from a weekend-long field training exercise at Fort Custer, located just outside the town of Battle Creek, Mich., according to an e-mail from Cadet Mike Howard.

The event, held twice a year in the fall and spring, focused on developing skills in three main areas: navigation, combat, and leadership, according to the email. The purpose was to provide the cadets in attendance – 46 from Notre Dame, 4 from Saint Mary’s and 2 from Holy Cross – with practical experience that reaches beyond the classroom, Howard said.

“In general, the idea is to improve upon what we do in class, to put meaning behind what we do in class,” sophomore Kyle Hanratty said. “For juniors and seniors, it’s a good way to get experience in the field.”

According to Howard, the training exercise will go a long way toward preparing Army ROTC juniors for their Leader Development and Assessment Course next summer.

To improve their ability to navigate terrain, cadets were given a set of coordinates to find with only the aid of a compass, map and their ability to memorize landmarks and count their steps – or in ROTC jargon, “terrain association and pace count,” Staff Sergeant Greg Abbracciamento said.

“The most challenging part of it was that there wasn’t much visibility during the land navigation portion of it,” said sophomore cadet Colin Raymond.

To simulate the unpredictability of combat, cadets practiced carrying out missions that could randomly unfold in various ways, according to Howard’s email.

Abbracciamento explained these combat scenarios.

“All the missions have contingencies. For example, during one leg, we were ordered to execute a recon mission. Instead of just observing, we were ambushed, and the enemy threatened to kill the POW. That required a lot of negotiation on the part our squad leaders,” he said.

Abbracciamento also described one of the drills designed to foster teamwork and leadership. Known as “leader reaction courses,” these drills put cadets from each class in charge of leading their squad through an obstacle course, he said.

“Those were a lot of fun. Everyone had a chance to lead a team within a time frame of 30 minutes. For example, we were POWs in an enemy camp. We had to get over the wall unscathed using nothing but a ladder, piece of string, and a pipe,” he said.

Cadets were pleased with the outcome, although the weekend was challenging.

Freshman cadet Ruth Ryan said, “It was good to get some practical experience. It was nice to meet people and the activities went really well.”

“You’re up from long hours from 6 in the morning till midnight,” Hanratty said. “It’s physically challenging and mentally challenging when you’re leading a squad training exercise, when you’re in control and must have leadership present.”