Away from the doldrums of campus life, more than 100 Air Force ROTC cadets from Wright State University’s Detachment 643 spent a recent Saturday morning at Wright Patterson Air Force Base’s Warfighter Training Center, barking commands, making quick decisions and experiencing a simulated deployed environment in preparation for their future.
Once each semester the cadets of Det. 643 descend upon the training center to learn and hone their tactical skills.
“Having this facility is nice. It gives [cadets] a good advantage at field training because they’re kind of put in a scenario where you’re in this tactical area,” said cadet Jalen Butler, a senior at Wright State.
For half of field training, a mandatory four-week course for those progressing through AFROTC, cadets are thrust into a similar high-intensity mock deployment. They learn skills like self-aided buddy care, military operations in urban terrain and entry control point procedures that may be used later in their careers downrange.
However, not all AFROTC detachments have access to the facilities like the Warfighter Training Center, so many cadets attend field training without prior exposure to these operations.
So the short range goal for Det. 643’s training is as valuable as the long-range.
“Everybody’s thinking tactically because you have to work around [obstacles], and that’s how you have to be at field training,” Butler said.
The day began at 8 a.m. as cadets arrived. They gathered in their flights to collect accountability of all their members and then proceeded through an equipment line to gather a weighted vest and a paintball gun, which they treated throughout the day as a live weapon.
For two hours, cadets rotated through training stations, learning and practicing tactical maneuvers. Upperclassmen cadets, who have graduated field training, trained the younger cadets with explanations and demonstrations.
At the Quick Reaction Force station, for example, cadets learned how to perform low and high crawls through varying levels of protective terrain. They later learned fire team formations for navigating through hostile territory in groups.
“It develops an understanding of communication in an area where communication may be impaired,” said Jonathan Sheets, a senior cadet who will attend Combat Systems Officer training upon graduation. “I enjoy teaching this because it’s fun to me and it’s fun showing underclassmen how to work together as a team to get something done.”
After lunch, participating cadets donned paintball masks as they loaded their markers with colored ammunition.
Cadet Tim Hanson, a junior who just attended field training in May 2017, embraced his new role of training the underclassmen for what they will experience more in the coming years.
“Having gone through this training here for two years and then going through field training, it’s really cool to see how you develop and how that all [comes together] at field training,” Hanson said.
For the first-year cadets, spending the day at Warfighter was an eye-opening experience.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect, and I feel like I truly got a taste of what I’m getting myself into,” said Blaise Fata, a freshman cadet. “I’ve never done any sort of combat training and I feel like I learned a lot. I am very happy I went and I found all the exercises enjoyable, especially the paintball portion.”
Whether it’s the tactics or the paintball that cadets remember, their combat training was a fresh variant from the classroom setting, providing a new perspective on military challenges.