Yesterday, members of the Weber State University ROTC stood on the side of a mountainous terrain, looking at the body of a fallen comrade lying in a cluster of sagebrush. These are not the mountains of Afghanistan, and this is not a true casualty. Here in Ogden, cadets are undergoing a weekly lab to train MS-3 cadets how to be effective leaders.
Part of ROTC training at WSU is having a weekly lab. The lab for Thursday involved training on squad-level tactics dealing with the appearance of civilians in a battlefield situation. None of the cadets were aware that a situation involving civilians would be introduced into the simulation.
“What we expect all of our students to do in ROTC is be good leaders, decision makers, understanding and assessing a situation rather quickly and making decisions in that situation,” said Lt. Col. Robert Bashein, professor of military science for the WSU ROTC. “So we’re looking at them being competent in army-type skills, but we’re also as officers looking at them to be leaders where they can make decisions, delegate and understand situations, so they can be successful in whatever situation they’re placed in.”
The squads encountered civilians dressed in Middle-Eastern garb tending to imagined herds of sheep.This may seem an appropriate act of role play given the terrain that the squads were training on, which is reminiscent of real-world conflicts the United States military is currently involved in.
“It makes movement a little bit tedious at times, especially with the snow,” said cadet Jeffrey Barker, an MS-3. “But it’s also very real world because the mountains of Afghanistan are really, really similar to here. And at the moment that’s where the majority of our conflict is, so it’s the best training we could possibly get.”
As they cautiously approached the herdsmen, the different squads in the various mission simulations had to determine if these were ordinary civilians caring for their livestock or hostile insurgents hiding caches of weapons.
“One of the things that we’re taught to deal with in the ROTC in the regular army is how to deal with civilians that might be in the battlefield because, obviously, we don’t want them to get hurt,” Barker said. “So we go through training on how to properly deal with them and escort them safely from the area for their safety and ours as well.”
Although some mistakes were made by the squads during the lab, those overseeing the training stressed that the purpose is to evaluate students and help them make improvements for future labs. This is mainly geared toward the upper levels of MS. MS-3s and MS-4s are those who have been part of the program the longest, and the MS-3s were the focus of the training, being put as leaders in charge of MS-1s and MS-2s. Patricia Kang, an MS-1 for WSU’s ROTC, explained what the different roles represented during the lab.
“It changes every week because the MS-3s are the ones who get evaluated, and they practice leadership roles,” Kang said. “And we are basically the junior cadets that they are in charge of. Basically it’s to listen to your squad leader and have faith in him and to trust him, and we do.”
Cadet Jonathan Mark Gomez, an MS-4 in the WSU ROTC, explained the purpose of ROTC training and what it provides the students, particularly the upper ranks of the MS.
“All their learning here is the basic soldiering skills,” Gomez said. “We teach them a skill set and then we evaluate their use of it. Just to evaluate them as leaders. Would we ever deploy a soldier that only knows what we teach them here? No. There’s far more to that.”
He went on to explain that the training being learned could be applied to a wide variety of careers within the military and not just comabative roles.
“There’s a huge support system as far as logistics. There are social workers within the army, doctors within the army, psychotherapists for the army,” Gomez said. “Generally, the only reason you’re put in a position where you’re going to be looking at deployment is because that’s something you’re actively pursuing.”
While many of the cadets involved and the personnel talked about how enjoyable and exhilarated the simulations were, Barker reiterated the point that it is serious training for the ROTC to breed a generation of leaders.
“For anybody that listens or reads this, don’t take the class because it’s something that sounds fun,” Barker said. “You take it because you have a goal in mind to be a leader and a commissioned officer in the army.”