Oct. 7, 2013
UCCS ROTC conducted their most rigorous training of the semester thus far at Jacks Valley, a training ground at the Air Force Academy Sept. 27-29.
During the first day, which began at 6 p.m., cadets were briefed, issued weapons and given sleeping arrangements.
Cadets were roused at 5:15 a.m. the next morning. After eating and showering, first- (MS1), second- (MS2) and third-year (MS3) cadets fell into their respective formations on the blacktop. From there, they were issued instructions for the first event: land navigation.
MS2 Cadet Scott Okouchi had gone through the training before. “I feel pretty confident I can do this,” he said, “[but] last time wasn’t too great because a lot of points were flying around.”
During the exercise, first- and second-year cadets operated in teams of two while third-years were on their own. They got 15 minutes of free plotting time, which allowed them to put dots on the map where the markers may be.
Cadets Megan Gleason and Rebecca Moss, both MS1, enjoyed the land navigation exercise. After free plot, they had four hours to find eight markers. They needed at least five out of eight to pass the training, which they did.
During this time, senior cadets presented a battle update brief to LTC Mark Thompson, via PowerPoint, on the operations that they were preparing to execute.
After land navigation, cadets began the situational training exercise.
“We have [the junior cadets] set up in a squad and we’ll randomly pick a squad leader and we’ll say, all right you have to conduct this mission,” MS4 cadet Guillermo Gonzalez. “We’ll brief a mission to them and they’ll have to go out into the forest … to go attack an objective.”
MS1 and MS2 squads were issued imitation weapons. MS3s, however, were equipped with paintball guns because they could allow for a better evaluation of their accuracy.
Once at their assigned location, squads were issued a leader and an operations order. While the information was being communicated, other cadets were pulling security around the group.
For optimal security, MS3 Benjamin Bodmer explained that “you need to be able to hide from bullets and be able to make sure the enemy can’t see you, but you also need to have a good view so you can see.”
After the operations order was issued, the squad leader briefed the cadets under his command. From there, they rehearsed the plan before they were scheduled to start the exercise. The mission commenced from that point on.
One group of nine cadets moved through the forest toward the predetermined point of ambush. As they progressed, the supervising cadets, who evaluate the performances of select MS3s, periodically switched the role of squad leader.
MS4 Kelsey Whistler assumed the role of enemy opposition for one of the groups. She and her partner sprung an ambush on the squad.
Sept. 29 was the last day of training exercises. The hand grenade assault course, which used simulation grenades, was the main event.
It consisted of 16 obstacles that cadets had to complete while carrying a dummy casualty weighing more than 100 pounds.
Okouchi was a member of one of the first groups to go. “I’ve done something similar to this but not with grenades,” he said prior to the event. “I feel pretty confident. I mean, we got a pretty decent set team. We have people of different strengths and weaknesses, but I feel we’ll get this done.”
Afterward, Okouchi felt that he and his team did “pretty well,” completing the course in 16 minutes, 4 seconds.
The weekend of intense training was meant to prepare each cadet for the Leader Development and Assessment Course, an advanced five-week practicum that UCCS ROTC will be holding later this year.