Bears of war: Nanook ROTC cadets train for battle

Fernanda Chamorro / Sun Star Reporter
Sept. 27, 2011

The sound of an explosion went off, and immediately orders shot through the air over the cacophony of gunfire.  This was all part of the Army ROTC training event that took place Sept. 23-25.  The three-day program was designed to simulate combat.  It teaches cadets military leadership skills.

ROTC stands for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a national program that prepares college students to become military officers.   Full-time students with a minimum 2.0 GPA can join and they are offered two- and four-year scholarships through the program, according to Stephanie Parker, the UAF Army ROTC public information officer.  Students who accept the scholarships must serve four years of active duty in the Army. While they are known as cadets while in the program, Army ROTC graduates can be commissioned into the Army as second lieutenants.  Army ROTC also allows students to spend time out of the classroom to perform many hands-on tasks.

Cameron Holt, 19, has a simultaneous membership which means he is a soldier and a cadet at the same time. Holt is double-majoring in computer engineering and science.  “It’s good to get out and be active,” he said, “rather than just sit in class.”

The training is held twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring.  It’s an introduction to basic soldier tasks for first-year cadets, Parker said.  This year, cadets worked through smoke bombs, ambushes, shooting range practice, ruck marches (maneuvers with really heavy multi-compartment bags), basic Army battle scenarios, and other exercises.  It trains cadets to get used to the combat environment and lead soldiers in wartime.

In the simulation, cadets were divided into two teams. The good guys were called the U.S. Forces and the bad guys were called the OpFor or Opposing Force.  Upper level cadets got the opportunity to dress up as OpFor.  They had to dress up, hide, attack and play dead.  Parker worked for OpFor.

“It is fun to go out there and play soldier,” Parker said.

The people in the program form a family that only grows once they join the Army, said Erin Walsh, a 21-year-old ROTC senior.  The great thing about playing the enemy in ROTC is that she gets to critique the newer members. OpFor allowed her to see what new cadets were doing wrong, giving her the opportunity not only to help them improve, but to improve her own tactics.

Holt enjoyed playing the role of the bad guy because they “have the advantage of firing a lot more rounds and I get to go ninja status,” she said.

Raye Diamond, 29, is going to commission as an Army captain once he graduates from the justice department.  He was in the Army and Air Force and is now working on his degree for the Army.   “Being enlisted and an officer is different. As an officer, you’re respected,” he said.

Captain Eugene Cramer, 36, was one of the soldiers training the cadets. It was a good training weekend because he “actually got some soldiers who want to be here,” he said.

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