Battalion Spring Field Training Exercise (FTX)
The Duke Battalion executed our Spring FTX from 21-23 March at Fort Pickett, Va.
FTX Spring 2014
CDT Ryan Restivo
The Army ROTC JMU Duke Battalion holds field training exercises (FTX) each semester to help prepare cadets to prepare for "Warrior Forge," and their future roles as Officers. Warrior Forge is a 29 day course that evaluates leadership and skill-based knowledge hosted at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Each FTX we are constantly challenged and pushed to succeed in missions by our peers and cadre to lead and learn.
Training for the spring was conducted at Fort Pickett near Blackstone, Virginia. We arrived on busses and were divided into platoon size units of 35 Cadets for the weekend. Each platoon was tasked with missions of raid, ambush and movement to contact. Each class of cadets has a primary role in the training events. Seniors are responsible for planning, resourcing and training all subordinate Cadets. Juniors take roles of leading between 10 and 40 other cadets and are responsible for ensuring that Cadets had water, food, maintained their weapon, remained injury free, as well as guide the younger cadets in how to complete tasks assigned.
The first event conducted over the weekend was land navigation. Fort Pickett has a dense and large land navigation course with points spread out as much as 600 meters apart. Third year cadets, and some second year cadets would be given a map, protractor, and compass and sent off into the woods with the goal of finding at least 5 of 8 points and return back before the 5 hour time limit was up! First year cadets would have the benefit of a buddy to assist each other in checking their pace, distance, and direction. Cadets dispersed quickly into the forest and fields to find the point markers, which at Fort Pickett happens to be a 1 square foot boards on a post. This proves to be quite challenging due to the large distances covered, but with a little confidence and trusting your instinct, many cadets had no issue in finding most, if not all, of their points.
After cadets made it back from day land navigation, the next even more challenging task was night land navigation. Same goals, less time. Cadets raced back out into the woods in the darkness in a true test of stamina, patience, and maintaining orientation. Many cadets came back jogging in early, proud to have defeated the course so quickly. We would eat our Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) as we could to keep as much energy as possible as the weekend was just getting started.
Once everyone returned and we were ready to set up our "patrol base" to sleep for the night, we stayed as motivated and warm as possible. Being the Army, we often do not afford ourselves the luxury of barracks or tents when we are in the field. All cadets got a front row view to the stars and prepared for the long day ahead, though we did not realize the surprise that the fourth year cadets had planned for us.
After a solid few hours of sleep, we were awoken to the sound of simulation grenade and artillery rounds, consisting of an unmistakably loud whistle and an even louder bang off just outside of the patrol bases for both platoons. We were under attack from the upperclassmen who stayed up preparing for more training! All cadets have been training for such an event and reacted to the contact. Afterwards, all Cadets were accounted for to prepare to conduct more training.
This day's activities would include Platoon level situational training exercises (STX), where cadets had the opportunity to show their knowledge on Army doctrine and completing missions successfully. We remained tactical throughout the day conducting missions in moving to conduct, an ambush and a raid on a village. Each platoon conducted their exercises and received feedback from their peers and Cadre on their leadership and knowledge. Cadets ensured that everyone remained as alert as possible and completed the missions.
By late in the day, everyone was tired, dirty, and wishing they had time to eat the MRE packed into their assault pack, but much more was to be done. We had an entire day planned ahead of us, and it would start early again. We would start the following morning with a "road march," which consisted of carrying our large rucksacks of 50 lbs on our backs to our next training event, 4 miles down the street.
Our final training event of the weekend was the "field leadership reaction course." This course was a large open floored obstacle course that relied on skill, knowledge, and most of all teamwork. Some of the obstacles appear to be more of a physical challenge at first, but nearly all could be solved by actually working through it in your head beforehand. This is where many leaders had an opportunity to contribute to the conversation on solving problems, and some very creative solutions. Some of the solutions weren't even the "course standard," but completed the task and could be quite fun to watch cadets attempt.
After ensuring accountability of all equipment, cadets, and training completion, we returned back to JMU. We conducted as much training as possible in the time allotted, which was quite exhausting... Nearly every cadet fell asleep on the busses on the way back. It certainly isn't easy to go without much sleep for days, while conducting training exercises and physical exertion nearly the entire time, but I think we stood up well. We begin planning for our next FTX in the near future, with an entirely new rotation of cadets to help prepare them for leadership in the Army.