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Army ROTC cadets take to the field for training

Dan Brombach | Tuesday, April 17, 2012

For sophomores in Notre Dame’s ROTC program, the annual spring Notre Dame Field Training Exercise (NDFTX) leadership weekend is a formative and exciting opportunity to apply their extensive training outside the confines of the classroom.

Sophomore Pat Bedard said ROTC members applied their knowledge in a real-world environment at this weekend’s training exercises at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind.

“It was a culmination point of our learning so far,” Bedard said. “We basically took everything we had learned up to that point and put it to the test in a real-world atmosphere.”

Senior Trevor Waliszewski said the event is crucial, because it gives sophomores an invaluable taste of what it will be like to assume a true leadership role.

“For the sophomores, [NDFTX] is basically their first opportunity to be in a leadership position,” Waliszewski said. “It gives them some really good experience, a chance to step up and finally be the one issuing the orders.”

Bedard said the NDFTX weekend plays a significant part in preparing sophomores for their upcoming duties as ROTC upperclassmen.

“The event really serves to get us sophomores ready for next year, where we’ll be responsible for controlling the upcoming freshman and sophomores,” he said. “It’s about getting first-hand experience, about learning to take charge of a squad, of a platoon, to take control of another group of people and have confidence.”

As a senior evaluator, Waliszewski said it was exciting to watch and provide feedback as the sophomores grew into their leadership roles over the course of the weekend.

“It was great to watch sophomores really step up and prove they had some leadership skills, and also to sit back and be able to help, to say ‘You can do this better’ or ‘Here’s something you can work on,'” Waliszewski said.

Senior NDFTX primary organizer Joshua Sandler said the weekend’s training was meant to challenge young cadets and push them to their limits, but not be so difficult as to set anybody up to fail.

Bedard said some of the participants, although excited, feared judgment before the weekend. But this fear quickly turned to assuredness as the event progressed, he said.

“Everybody was nervous going in because the leadership was kind of breathing down our necks, but looking back now that the event is over we’re all glad we did it,” Bedard said.  “It was a big boost to our confidence.”

Despite the weekend’s intense training, Bedard said ROTC members were able to cut loose and enjoy themselves during a game of paintball “Civil War” after lightning cancelled their regularly-scheduled exercise.

“It may not have been a great learning experience, but it was definitely the most fun part of the weekend,” he said.

Although the NDFTX weekend is over, Sandler said the ROTC program will spare neither time nor effort in continuing to prepare freshmen and sophomores for their upcoming leadership roles.

“The plan moving forward is to continue to push cadets to their potential, constantly striving to cut down on wasted time and to enhance training value,” he said.

Waliszewski said the event is a great way to build unity and foster enthusiasm in the ROTC department, as well as to create anticipation for the future.

“It definitely boosts morale, gets everyone excited about being in the program and gives us a mini-taste of what our careers are going to be like,” he said.