As Future, Kanye West and the Backstreet Boys played in the background, cadets from USF’s ROTC program discussed the possibility of stopping by In-N-Out for burgers before they made it to a weekend long training activity that awaited them in Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin, CA.
The training event has become a yearly tradition for USF students in ROTC, and took place this year on the weekend of April 7-9. After reporting on their cadet-organized 5K fundraiser last month, I was invited to come join the USF platoon for the training event. We would be joining a group of about 200 cadets and military professors who came from universities such as UC Berkeley, Santa Clara, and SF State.
On Sat. April 8, I met up with a group of nursing students in ROTC who had to miss the first day of training in order to take a midterm. We left from Loyola Village Residence Hall inside one of the cadets’ Honda Odyssey. After mulling over the potential risk of facing consequences from cadre — the group of officers and enlisted personnel who train and teach the USF ROTC unit — the cadets decided against the detour for Double Doubles.
Unfortunately, we were already late, so we missed one of the missions (specific training activities) planned for the morning, but that did give us enough time to dig into our MRE’s, or Meals Ready to Eat. Actual service members eat from a variety of MRE’s while deployed in combat. For example, my first MRE of the day had chili with cheese spread and jalapeños, cornbread, orange juice powder, a caramel and apple granola bar for dessert.
Our first mission of the day was Land Navigation, which involved traversing through unfamiliar terrain by foot while using maps, a compass and other navigational skills to find markers that had been placed around the 2500 acre military training area.
That took all afternoon and into the night, until about 9 p.m. when cadre announced that we would be setting up camp on the side of the hill inside the park. The term “camp” refers to a group of about 25 cadets laying in their sleeping beds out on the grass. While some set up their sleeping bags, others kept watch, armed with dummy guns to simulate actual combat protection strategies. By 10 p.m., cadets were expected to be inside their sleeping bags ready to say goodnight, although this was difficult at a temperature of 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Some confessed that they only were only able to sleep in the freezing temperatures because they had to sleep through torrential rain all through the night before.
To cap off the weekend, awards were given out by cadre from the three schools who helped host the event, USF, UC Berkeley and Santa Clara University. These were given to students who demonstrated the best leadership skills throughout the weekend. Lieutenant Colonel Sean Williams, who heads the ROTC program at USF, had some parting words for the cadets, some of whom are seniors who will be commissioning for the Army come graduation in May. “Training events like this, later on down the road when you’re a lieutenant, you’re a captain, you’re a major, you’re a sergeant first class, or you’re a master sergeant, it doesn’t matter what it is. If you are a leader, your job is to be a leader and to think like one,” said Lt. Col. Williams. “Do not ever let yourself be in a position where you regard yourself as a paperweight and you just want someone to tell you what to do. If you are not in a leadership position, you are thinking about ‘what would I do if I were in charge, what is next.’ Keep yourself mentally engaged,” he concluded.