By Mitch Meador, Lawton ConstitutionApril 15, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla.--A change in geographic divisions within the Cadet Command has brought together a whole new mix of universities for the big field training exercise that the Cameron University ROTC program hosts each spring on Fort Sill.
In the past, CU, located near Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., was in a division with Texas, but the map has been redrawn, according to Maj. Rod Boles, chairman of Cameron's military science department. A total of 132 ROTC cadets from the University of Central Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, its satellite at Northeastern Oklahoma State University, Tahlequah, and Cameron University are going through the spring FTX at Fort Sill, according to Master Sgt. Troy Franzen, head planner for the FTX and senior military science instructor at Cameron.
Franzen said he has been working on the spring FTX for about a month. The leadership STX (situational training exercise) lanes are geared toward the type of training cadets between their junior and senior years will receive when they attend the 28-day Leadership Development Assessment Course (LDAC) at Fort Lewis, Wash., this summer. CU established the lanes on the ground at Camp Eagle, but the other universities were tasked with setting up one or two lanes each and bringing their own opposing force (OPFOR).
"This has truly been a team effort on behalf of all the schools," Franzen said. Franzen said the FTX is the culmination of the year's training for the juniors, and the seniors who have already been through LDAC actually run it. The six lanes test the juniors on the following: movement to contact, react to ambush, area reconnaissance, deliberate attack, point ambush, knock out a bunker and attack. The squads get 120 minutes per lane in which to receive an operations order from the lane walker, develop and execute a plan, and go through an after-action review.
Cadets started moving in April 7 and were broken down into platoons of approximately 30 to 35 cadets each April 8. The cadets started their squad integration and set up four patrol bases around Camp Eagle on April 8. One-half of the cadets rotated through six situational training exercises at Camp Eagle on Friday while the other half went on daytime and nighttime land navigation exercises and went through a team development course. They reversed roles, and on Sunday the entire group will go on a 10-kilometer road march.
Two ROTC cadets from Lawton were in a nine-member squad that sprung a successful ambush on April 9. The squad leader on this lane was Matthew Penick, a 2004 graduate of MacArthur High School and a second-generation Cameron University ROTC cadet. His father, Bret Penick, graduated from Cameron ROTC in 1980 and now works for Stanley, a corporation that builds weapons systems for the military.
"The mission was really a 100 percent success. We had no casualties, killed two enemy and that was it," Penick said. He summed up his actions thus: "I was handed an operations order from my tactical officer. I went immediately and gave a warning order to my team leaders. From there, I went and made my plan and converted the platoon op order into a squad op order. I pulled the squad in, briefed them on the mission, showed them on a sand table 'This is exactly what we're going to do' and then we had about 30 minutes of rehearsals. And then we moved on to the objective.
"We sat in ambush and waited until the enemy came. We initiated the ambush. We assaulted through. We got security afterwards, 360(-degree) security. We had our special teams go through and take the weapons and intelligence off of the killed enemy combatants. We dragged them off the road and that was the mission." He scouted out the ambush site himself. "I picked a point where the whole squad could remain concealed, half-cover and concealment. That's the No. 1 thing whenever you have an ambush, so you have the element of surprise as well as a large kill zone," Penick said.
Cameron University Cadet Justin Walley, a 2007 graduate of MacArthur High School, served as Penick's radio/telephone operator and right-hand man on the lane. His job was to collect basic information for Penick, write down things and get reports together. Walley said he thought they did manage to surprise the OPFOR. "They saw us just before we started shooting, so I think that's a pretty good surprise," he said. They even finished early. "We had a little time where we could sit and start eating our MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) and drink water. That's what we're doing now. We're enjoying that time together," Walley said. On the next lane, it would be Walley's turn to serve as squad leader and come up with a successful plan. Other cadets were elsewhere on post. The day land navigation course is on Training Areas 21 and 30 near Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area, Franzen said. Cadets will have to find at least five of eight points using nothing more than a map, a protractor and a pencil. "Truly testing their skills," he said. "We give them their grids and a little bit of time to do their plotting." The cadets have to locate at least three of five points on the night land navigation course on Training Areas 43 and 56 by Rabbit Hall. That exercise wraps up around midnight. "We are asked to host this due to our proximity to Fort Sill," Boles said of the mammoth undertaking.
The deputy commanding general of Cadet Command informed Boles and Franzen at an April 2 briefing that of the 278 universities in the command nationwide, Cameron is in the closest proximity to a military installation.
"That's one thing that we're blessed with, is we have great training facilities . ... On Fridays we have leadership lab for our cadets, and we do a lot of our training here on Fort Sill. So we have a great rapport. It's a great partnership, Cameron University with Fort Sill, with real teamwork and cooperation, not only in the JFTX but year-round," Boles said.