By Sgt. Ken ScarOctober 27, 2015
Twenty drill sergeants, prospective drill sergeants, and officers from the Army Reserve's 108th Training Command (IET) traveled to Clemson University and spent a perfect Autumn day teaching future Army leaders some of the essential skills they will need as Soldiers.
While the rest of their classmates were enjoying another Clemson Tigers victory on the football field, cadets with Clemson's Reserve Officer Training Corps "Fighting Tigers" Battalion were spending three days "in the field" for their fall leadership training exercise. The event is designed to introduce freshmen and sophomores to Army life, and hone the juniors' skills for the upcoming Cadet Summer Training mission in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
This is the third year personnel with the 108th have teamed up with the Clemson ROTC to elevate the LTX training and make things real for the cadets.
"This exercise is to help develop not only our juniors in their leadership, but also give the freshmen and sophomores some basic skills in weapons familiarization and fire, and land navigation," said Lt. Col. James D. Mullinax, Clemson's professor of Military Leadership. "The 108th drill sergeants are here to help in the technical aspects, especially drill and ceremonies, weapons familiarization assembly and disassembly, communications, and they're also running the range. They have the expertise to do the direct hands-on coaching, and because of the numbers we have we're able to have one coach per firer -- so they're able to give them individual feedback."
The LTX took place in the Clemson Forest, a lush expanse of maple groves and thick underbrush on the edge of Lake Hartwell. The cadets made camp Friday night in the dark, and juniors spent the night doing land navigation. Saturday dawned bright and clear with a cool fall breeze and a platoon-sized element of drill sergeants waiting for them at the firing range with a wide range of things to teach them. While one group of cadets learned preliminary rifle marksmanship, others would learn rappelling, SINCGARS radio operation, drill and ceremony, and how to operate and disassemble M249 SAW and Browning M2 machine guns.
Having the seasoned professionals from the 108th there adds a huge amount of value to the training, Mullinax said.
"This is the second time this semester [the cadets] have seen drill sergeants, so they get that interaction with what a noncommissioned officer does, and can see how they train privates in a very methodical process that sometimes my NCOs and I are not as proficient at," said Mullinax. "For our seniors it provides interaction where they can just talk with the drill sergeants about different perspectives of life in the Army. Some of our seniors are going into the Reserves so they can talk to them about that."
"These events are very beneficial," said senior cadet Robert Bussmann, who will become a Chinook pilot for the South Carolina National Guard upon graduating. "They've changed quite a bit from my freshman year, when the emphasis was on land navigation. They're doing a bunch of fun stuff I never did. Seeing what they're doing now, I think it prepares them much better for what goes on. There's less emphasis on assessment and more on development. Having the drill sergeants is great because they've done this a lot longer than we have. Their marksmanship and drill and ceremony instruction is second to none. It makes it real."
As for the drill sergeants; they all seemed to agree that the chance to give young cadets a taste of what they're lives will be like after commissioning, and show them what military bearing looks like was worth sacrificing a beautiful fall weekend for.
Spc. Nathan White stood out from the other trainers from the 108th because he wasn't wearing one of the iconic drill sergeant hats -- yet.
"I'm about to go to the drill sergeant candidate program, so this has been really fun," he said. "It's why I volunteered for the whole drill sergeant thing - teaching people new things. Most of the cadets are learning really quickly. It's always nice coming out here and doing this sort of thing."