Army ROTC cadets use firsthand training to learn essential skills


Tristan Wade/Iowa State Daily

Cadets pull a casualty from the building during a training exercise. 

Tristan Wade

In blustery, cold conditions, Army ROTC cadets gathered at a field near the Fire Training facilities Wednesday to prepare for their first-aid training activity.

The cadets exercised a life-like scenario to put into action what they learned in class.

“We wanted to work on squad movement, formations, how to clear a room and first aid,” Cody Neltner, a squad leader, said.

The cadets split into platoons, each with three squads. The platoons, at separate times, began by walking along the woods in the area toward the building used by the fire department for training. Their goal was to maintain formations, deal with incidents on their way to the building and clear the building.

Each platoon had a handful of upper-class cadets who were along to observe and evaluate the performance of the squads.

Carrying fake guns and dressed in uniform, the cadets were expected to take the training as a real-life scenario and be as vigilant as possible. Cadet Brad Schuler said that this was an exercise that everyone was to take seriously and perform as well as possible.

Only the sounds of crunching leaves and snapping twigs could be heard as the cadets crept through the woods toward the building. As the platoon approached the building, it was met by “enemies” running from around the building holding fake guns of their own, yelling, “bang bang!,” and signaling fake gun fire.

The squads had to react properly, ducking for cover and going prone while behaving according to protocol. The evaluators diligently watched every move as the squads dealt with the enemy contact.

Once the situation was handled, the platoon proceeded to the building to clear each of the two levels. In the building the discovered wounded and KIA that they had to properly treat and remove from danger.

While two squads dealt with the building, the third squad remained outside to engage civilians of the village they were simulating. A blast went off during the engagement to simulate an improvised explosive device, and the cadets had to move to action accordingly.

As the events unfolded, many cadets looked as if they could feel the stress of the situation, but that’s expected.

“This was our first lab outside where we actually were able to conduct our operations and see where we’re at going forward we’ll see where to improve for next time,” said Peter Watkins.

The training activity, and others that the Army ROTC conducts, are geared to prepare cadets for the camps they will go to over the summer. The real-life implantation of what is learned in the classroom is crucial.

“You can teach as much as you want in the classroom, but if you don’t get out and do it, nobody understands,” Watkins said. “… At points there was confusion, in the classroom everybody got it, but when you’re out in the field there can be hiccups.”

This type of practical exercise gives the cadets a great measure on where they stand and how well they’re doing. Even though it was the first exercise of the year, the cadets took the results with optimism.

“We still have a little bit of work to do, but overall we were pretty good,” Neltner said.