Fighting Flyer Battalion spend weekend training at Fort Knox

By: Sara Begley – Freshman, Communication

The University of Dayton’s Reserves Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) performed in their first Joint Leadership Development Exercise event paired with Wright State University on Apr. 1-3 in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Junior cadet and history major, Matt Gardner, said the event aided in bringing UD’s program closer together and helped the members gradually visualize and learn the mental and technical skills that the missions demanded.

Senior cadet battalion commander and industrial engineering technology major, Nathan DeCamp, who coordinates with the staff to ensure everything from workouts to events run smoothly, said the event usually includes land navigation, tactical patrolling missions and an obstacle course.

Gardner said, military science first-years and sophomores, MS1’s and 2’s, worked together throughout the missions, but MS3’s, who are juniors, were able to execute the activities on their own.

Junior cadet and operations and supply management major, Michael Wagner, said during land navigation they received a grid location and had to figure out the most plausible route to get to the final destination. Sophomore cadet and mechanical engineering major, Miranda Johnston, said they used the starting coordinates to find the points on the grid.

“When you’re a freshman you just follow your compass straight there, but as you get older you learn to work with the terrain and paths that you have,” Johnston said.

She said when her team got to their target destination they saw a pole, which indicated they had made it to the correct spot.

“I think that I really excelled in land navigation because my partner and I received all of our points and not everyone was able to do that,” Johnston said.

UD’s ROTC members also conducted three tactical patrolling missions.

“The first one was a key leadership engagement, then a move into contact mission and the last one was an ambush,” Johnston said.

Gardner said they were organized in platoons, each of which had a leader. He said the platoon leader briefed the missions to the entire platoon, conducted rehearsals before the missions and finalized details, such as checking weapons.

“My mission was a move into contact, which means we moved the entire platoon until we saw or heard the enemy or the enemy attacked,” Wagner said. “We rehearsed what we were going to do so we knew that when the enemy hit us from the front we were to move one of the guys in our squad around to the back.”

Successful land navigation aided in the tactical patrolling missions because of the large number of trees and hills, which made it difficult to maneuver the platoons, according to Wagner.
The ROTC members did not participate in the obstacle course because they had to ensure that the equipment was in the same condition as it was when they arrived.

“We didn’t end up doing the obstacle course because we used real M16 rifles with blanks when we were training so we spent a lot of extra time cleaning those and cleaning the barracks,” Johnston said.

“It is was kind of unfortunate, but sometimes you get missions that are subject to change,” Gardner said. “We had to make sure the weapons were clean enough before we turned them in. We didn’t want to look like scums for turning in dirty weapons.”

Gardner said the most challenging, but beneficial part of the event was working with Wright State University’s ROTC members.

“The army is a very people-centered organization so being able to get those skills of practicing with people that you don’t know at all and have totally different backgrounds and knowledge was important,” Gardner said. “You want to make sure that they know you’re a member of the team and we’re all trying to accomplish the same goal.”

Wagner explained that in preparation for the event, the members attended several meetings, made an outline of the missions and created a training model to represent what would happen during a mission.

Gardner said their tight-knit program pushes each other to be superior. He said each member slowly improves each year at the Joint Leadership Development Exercise because the MS1’s and MS2’s get to follow older members and visualize how the missions work. Gardner said by the time they are MS3’s they are prepared to put everything they’ve learned into action independently.

Johnston said UD’s program has a close group because of the strenuous experiences they go through together to succeed in the ROTC.

“We embrace the suck together,” Johnston said. “It’s not a miserable experience, but it’s tough and it’s challenging. You’re running around the woods all sweaty and dirty, but you’re with all of the people you know really well from the University of Dayton.”