Redstone Arsenal was the site of a fall training exercise for 59 Army ROTC cadets last week, with the aspiring officers getting some hands-on experience and guidance from two senior Garrison leaders.
“Our FTX does provide our cadets with applicable hands-on experience for what they will experience” at Cadet Summer Training next year, Maj. Zachary Moore, assistant professor of military science/executive officer at Alabama A&M University, said. “Of the 59 participating cadets, 23 of them will have the opportunity to attend Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, this summer.”
The training for the cadets – students at Alabama A&M University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville – included basic rifle marksmanship, land navigation, squad and platoon tactical patrolling and patrol base and defensive operations. On Thursday, they started their day early with a six-mile road march to the shooting range.
That afternoon, Garrison Commander Col. Brian Cozine and Command Sgt Maj. Dylan Lemasters shared their own military experiences and career advice with the group.
“Career wise, I don’t have any regrets,” said Lemasters, whose 23-year Army career includes service with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment Corps and deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other “hot” locations. “I always went after it. If you have dreams and things you want to go after, go after them.
“Do not allow other people to hold you back. And don’t hold yourself back. If you put those barriers up yourself, you’re always going to be defined by those barriers. Break through the barriers.”
Cozine, who has served in the Army for 33 years, urged the cadets to “rely on the strength of the organization you’re with, your teammates, because you can’t do it by yourself.”
“At the end of the day, it’s not about you,” Lemasters said. “You’re going to get to where you need to go because your team’s going to get you there.”
Asked why they stayed with the Army, Cozine said: “I’m having a damn good time.”
He acknowledged that the career has its challenges – from dealing with Soldiers who are in trouble or who have lost a family member to being deployed for months on end. “But what makes it fun is the fact that you’re actually doing something that’s unique.
“I get to go out in the field and hang out with some of the mo
st talented Americans in this world,” said Cozine, who had tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. “Each one of you out here has a unique talent that you’re going to bring to the Army.
“The fun part is enjoying the camaraderie and the experiences.”
Being part of a team and being able to experience different parts of the world are among the perks of a military career, according to Lemasters.
“You have the opportunity to represent the United States of America in that capacity,” he said. “That’s what’s always driven me.”
Cozine encouraged the group to be proud of their ROTC experience.
“Don’t be afraid to tell your story” to college classmates and peers, he said.
Cadet Battalion Commander Hayden Smith, a senior at UAH who’s from Augusta, Georgia, said the fall training introduces cadets to the skills they’ll need when they go to Cadet Summer Training. Smith joined the ROTC program the second semester of his freshman year.
Two cadets who were recognized Thursday for their efforts during the training exercise shared the benefits of the event.
Maria Chytka, a UAH junior from Rhode Island, was the platoon leader on Wednesday night, overseeing the move of the platoon members and their gear from A&M’s ROTC gym to the training area off Hansen Road on the installation.
“In terms of the FTX so far, I’ve learned a lot about how to act as a leader” in the military, she said.
Deon Hunter, an A&M junior from Selma, said that taking on the position of platoon sergeant during the training had been a lesson in resiliency.
“You’ve got to be able to think fast, move quick, have a good attitude while you’re doing it,” he said. “I’m having a great time.”