Students Serve Through ROTC

Posted on September 1st, 2009 by

Rappelling is just one of myriad skills that are honed during a weekend of training at Camp Ripley.

Rappelling is just one of myriad skills that are honed during a weekend of training at Camp Ripley.

By Alex Messenger ’10

Each spring, Gusties taking part in the U.S. Army’s Reserved Officer Training Corp (ROTC) travel to Camp Ripley for a weekend of training in the Joint Field Training Exercises (JFTX) to help prepare them to serve their country through the Army after graduation.

Nine current Gustavus students are part of the Maverick Battalion as cadets. The battalion also includes students from Minnesota State University Mankato (MSU) and Bethany Lutheran College. The battalion was established at MSU in 1981 and Gustavus became a partner in the early 1990s.

When cadets complete their four years and commissions they become Second Lieutenants. “Once they [cadets] graduate and commission they are serving their country for 8 years, for whatever reason they join… they are going wherever the army is telling them,” said LTC Thomas Cooper, professor of military science at MSU and among the cadre of commanding officers at the JFTX. Cadets largely get to choose their specialty, based on their skills and interests.

This spring’s JFTX was April 16-18 and designed to further train the cadets in army tactics and leadership. “This is probably our capstone event of the year and what it’s supposed to do is simulate Leadership Development Acceleration Course (LDAC) that is a 32-day course that we send our cadets to [in the summer],” said Cooper.

When the cadets arrive at Camp Ripley they are split into platoons and further into squads of about 9 cadets, each from different schools. The squads work together throughout the weekend as a team, with cadets rotating through the leadership positions.

Gustie Nicholas Bonestroo ’10 was given a leadership role. “I was assigned the Platoon leadership role, so I was basically tasked to be held accountable for 35 soldiers in my platoon. I had to keep them informed of our training events and tasks throughout the weekend; give them a general timeline of events; and make sure they knew what was going on,” said Bonestroo, an accounting major.

The younger cadets and older cadets split into different groups. At first, the younger ones attend classes and workshops on different topics, while older ones dive right into field exercises. The first exercise for the more experienced cadets was night land navigation, where each cadet was given coordinates of points to plot on a map, and instructed to find as many of them as possible within 3 hours—alone, in total darkness, and only using a map, protractor, and compass. The next morning they do a day land navigation.

Later in the weekend, the newer cadets do day and night land navigations, obstacle courses, rappelling, basic rifle marksmanship, marching, and squad work. The elder cadets spend much of their time in squad tactics. Following night-and-day land navigation, Field Leader’s Reaction Course (FLRC) occurs. This course tests an appointed squad leader’s ability to problem solve and lead effectively while dealing with obstacles, objectives, and time constraints.

A prevalent component of the JFTX was the Situational Training Exercise (STX) lanes. These are very hands on for the cadets and work on a cadet’s ability to lead a squad in a simulation of a true to life set of orders and objectives. Cadets are given objectives, simulate radio communication, locate information, clear bunkers, assist in humanitarian efforts, and engage opposing forces .

“I really enjoyed the STX lanes, if only because it gave us a chance to come together as a group and really find out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, said Bonestroo. The thing that stands out for me was the paintball lanes, it was the first year we were able to do that. It just adds another dimension to running the missions because it is meant to simulate the idea you can actually sustain a casualty by being shot. It gives an added sense of urgency or stress to the situation as opposed to just firing blanks.”

The cadets went through 9, two-hour STX lanes over the course of two days, with each cadet having the opportunity to act as squad leader. In the middle of those STX lanes, in order to sleep, cadets performed Patrol Base Operations—the army procedure followed to ensure that they have a safe and secured area to sleep and regroup.

“It’s a really good opportunity for us to come together and fill in any gaps that we’ve had in our training and, at the same time, be there to help out fellow cadets if they had any questions or weren’t familiar with something.” said Bonestroo.

“It was definitely a learning experience for all of us,” agreed Gustavus students Troy French ’10, Ben Bauknecht ’10, and Jake Partridge ’10.


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