The Maverick Battalion ROTC program recently attended their annual field training exercise, or FTX. This year’s FTX took place at Camp Ripley in Little Falls, MN. Beginning Thursday, September 27th through Sunday the 30th. The Maverick Battalion is a combined effort of MNSU, Gustavus-Adolphus, and Bethany Lutheran College students.
The four-day three-night excursion was a basic immersion into a field environment for Freshman and Sophomore Cadets (MS1’s and MS2’s) in the program, and a preparatory field exercise for the Juniors (MS3’s) who will soon be attending their advanced camp in Fort Knox, KY this upcoming summer.
Some activities Cadets participated in were: a land navigation course, weapons qualification, CH-47 helicopter rides, paintball, and an obstacle course. As an MS2 in the program, I can attest to the fact that this year’s FTX held vast improvements for this year’s Cadets.
A lot of the changes implemented by the Seniors (MS4’s) this year were put into place based on their previous experience at advanced camp, and inspired by areas they felt Cadets lacked adequate training on. Some new activities at this year’s FTX featured the obstacle course, shooting pop up targets, and classes on call for fire and calling in nine-line Medevac requests.
Alexandra Brady (MS4), a medic in the Minnesota Army National Guard and the current Cadet Battalion Commander stated, “The most difficult part of organizing FTX was the pop up range because of the logistics and availability of equipment, as well as always making sure to have a back up plan in case things go awry.”
She also said, “Despite the struggles of getting this weekend put together, it is also very rewarding. You get to watch a change happen in the Cadets who are new to the program and unsure about themselves. After a few days they begin to warm up to the program, and soon they are feeling right at home.”
Tyler Piotter, a Junior in the program stated “Being an MS3 adds a lot of responsibility. This FTX I was assigned as a Platoon Sergeant, so not only am I responsible for myself, but now I need to think of all the other Cadets in my platoon. I am responsible for making sure that they are informed, prepared, and have all the necessary gear. I think ROTC is great because it teaches leadership skills, helps with college funds, and makes you a better person all around.”
For MS1’s like Joseph Griffith, who come into the program with no prior military service, they oftentimes acquire many new experiences. Cadet Griffith stated, “This was my first time flying in a helicopter and firing an M16. It was also my first time playing paintball; that was definitely my favorite part of FTX.”
He added, “I also enjoyed getting to know everyone in my platoon and learning from them.”
ROTC is unique to other military alternatives as the program allows for many added opportunities. For MS3’s like Cadet Piotter, an infantryman in the Minnesota Army National Guard, this means not only participating in the Simultaneous Membership Program which allows you to be in the Army National Guard or Reserves as well as ROTC but taking advantage of specialized schools ROTC has to offer such as Airborne School.
Cadet Piotter said, “I graduated airborne school as a paratrooper this summer, and getting to jump out of airplanes was awesome, but I also made some really good friends along the way which made this an invaluable experience.”
Cadets who are not SMP attend Basic Camp during the summer of their freshman or sophomore years upon receiving a contract, and all MS3’s attend Advanced Camp at the end of their Junior year.
The allure of a commission and free tuition is what draws many in, but I would like to argue that it is the spirit of this battalion that contributes to such high cadet retention rates.
Last weekend the battalion welcomed three newly contracted Cadets: Greg Theriault, Jake Veness, and Kristie Uhren. Cadet Uhren, an MS2 said, “The best part about contracting doesn’t even have anything to do with the tuition money. Contracting is what motivates me to be a role model and the best person that I can be. It also inspires me to learn as much as I can so that I can mentor younger students. Without the support of the other Cadets around me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Cadet Brady adhered to this statement “This program combines Army values and principles with the life and leadership skills a person should have after college.
The program opens up a new side of the army enabling Cadets to be the ones planning the training instead of merely partaking in it. You start off in the program because you want the commission, but you stay because of the people that make it all worthwhile.”
Feature photo courtesy of the ROTC.