By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill TribuneApril 18, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla. (April 18, 2019) -- They call themselves "Team Oklahoma."
ROTC cadets from four Oklahoma universities -- the University of Oklahoma (OU), Oklahoma State University (OSU), the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), and Cameron University (CU) -- come together as one for a joint field training exercise (FTX) each spring.
Cadets from OU, OSU, and UCO arrived by helicopter shortly before noon April 12. Two UH-60 Black Hawks, two CH-47 Chinooks, and then two more Black Hawks deposited them on a grassy field at Camp Eagle, home to the Fort Sill Noncommissioned Officer Academy Training Site, which was on loan as their headquarters for the exercise.
This year OU took the lead on the three-day event, according to Capt. Dave Swanson, the OU military science professor tasked with coordinating the training event.
"It's been a great team effort. I've been privileged to lead the team that has come up with the entire concept," Swanson said.
The primary focus of the spring FTX is on MS-3 ROTC cadets, who are in their junior academic year.
"They have a big test during their summertime. They go to Cadet Command Advanced Camp. It's a camp full of must-pass tasks. A lot of land nav(igation), marksmanship, leadership assessments all throughout the camp. So they're the primary training audience out here," Swanson explained.
Some 88 MS-3s took part in the spring FTX that serves as rehearsal for their 36-day Cadet Summer Training (CST) experience at Fort Knox, Ky. That's five days more than last year, to get in additional marksmanship training, a buddy-team live fire, and throwing a live hand grenade.
"It's definitely jam-packed. There's a lot that goes on in those 36 days," he said.
The cadre helping put on the spring FTX this past weekend will also go to Fort Knox to support that training. They'll be platoon lane-walkers and company observers. Some will be in charge of the cadet opposing forces (OPFOR).
Swanson said CST consists of several different things: the summer training, which includes basic camp and advanced camp, and a couple of cultural opportunities. One is a program called Cultural Understanding and Learning Program, in which ROTC cadets travel abroad and have an opportunity to apply lessons learned across various cultures.
Another is Cadet Troop Leadership Training, in which ROTC cadets go into Forces Command units in the active Army for 4-5 weeks to shadow a platoon leader.
"Our specific focus (during the FTX) is preparation for advanced camp," said Swanson.
MS-4s -- seniors who went through all this last year -- have volunteered to serve as facilitators for the spring FTX taking place this weekend on Fort Sill.
"Just like the camp is jam-packed, we have a jam-packed three days here as well," Swanson said.
That includes tactical tasks in a round-robin format, starting with reconnaissance, ambush and attack, as well as a lane dedicated to call for fire (after all, Fort Sill is the home of the field artillery).
On April 13 the ROTC cadets ran through 300-meter pop-up marksmanship qualification with their M-4 carbines and land navigation at Forward Operating Base Eagle. The FTX culminated April 14, with a surprise event for the cadets -- an all-encompassing platoon attack.
"It's a great opportunity to fire at the pop-up targets. It's real easy to qualify Alt-C, which is not the preferred method. However, it's difficult to get on a full 300-meter range. So, everything came together. We have great support from Fort Sill, from Maj. Gen. (Wilson A.) Shoffner (commanding general of the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill), who's really embraced all of Oklahoma's ROTC programs, and the opportunity to get on a 300-meter pop-up range is one that will really benefit the cadets," Swanson said.
Cameron University Cadet Battalion Commander Laura LeForge, one of 11 ROTC cadets who will be commissioned as Army officers when they graduate this year, volunteered to help with the spring field training exercise. She said Cameron seniors ran the range April 13, and they served as lane-walkers for some of the situational training exercise lanes April 12. Others were role-playing as OPFOR.
Cameron University had 16 MS-3s going through the spring FTX, she said.
LeForge is prior service, a veteran of 11 years of Army service, so she had been in the field a few times before going to advanced camp last summer.
It was nothing like her previous experiences.
"That was the longest I've ever stayed out in the field consecutively and slept outside," said LeForge. "I was a truck driver before. I'm used to being in my truck a lot."
She's among the 40 percent of ROTC cadets enrolled in the simultaneous membership program, so she also drills in the National Guard on Fort Sill. She took an early release from the active Army to be in the Green to Gold program, and joined the Guard because it pays 100 percent of tuition. She also used her GI Bill benefits to pay for her schooling.
LeForge will be going into the transportation branch as a second lieutenant. Her 16-week Basic Officer Leader Course will be at Fort Lee, Va., and her follow-on duty station will be with the Sustainment Brigade at Fort Carson, Colo.