Outdoor Action…Princeton’s answer to ROTC

I like to think of myself as an outdoorsy person, even though I’m not.  I’m way too fond of a hot shower, for example, and I still have trouble pointing out poison ivy.  On the other hand, I have had the chance to climb some real rocks, float down some rivers and rapids and hike some very cool trails over the years — I do genuinely enjoy getting out and experiencing the wilderness.

Honestly, take one look at the Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel and tell me that isn’t the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

So anyway, this is why I am training to become a Princeton Outdoor Action leader.  For a week, the week before school starts in the fall, I will take a group of seven or eight new freshmen on a backpacking trip — the same kind of orientation trip that I myself enjoyed so much this past September.

More than anything during these OA classes, I catch myself drawing parallels to what I do in ROTC.  Obviously, being out in the field requires much of the same practical skills as backpacking, and we use much of the same equipment (But I’m not going to lie: I’m psyched that on the frosh trip I will be using a comfy, top-of-the-line OA internal frame pack instead of my army ruck).

Because we have done some land nav labs already, I felt comfortable when we talked about map and compass.  Also, after my first wilderness first aid session today I found myself thinking about the infamous aid and litter acronym that only a few male cadets have felt comfortable saying out loud when I’m around.  Really Bad Boys Should Find Better Hobbies, its true, but awkward as it is I must admit I remember the other one better.  Shhhh.  Actually, the OA first aid curriculum seems to love acronyms as much as the army, so MLIG* but because the acronyms are from different sources it kind of feels like when Tiger Co. and Lion Co. have a UCE.**

Other similarities are more subtle.  For example, OA has a whole philosophy behind “experiential learning,” where each activity on the trip involves the leader briefing the group and then debriefing afterward.  I wonder what my frosh would think if I disseminated an Operation Order and then conducted an After Action Report…in formation.    “Ok, guys, drop the trail mix. Take out a pencil and paper and prepare to copy!”  I can already see the fear on their little freshman faces.

In conjunction with this brief-activity-debrief idea my OA instructor touted the Situational Leadership Model, (he actually said “the military uses this” to give it legitimacy).  I am inclined to buy into it.  I certainly know that at the beginning of the year, we MS 1s certainly required more task-oriented direction and now that we know some basic skills there is more emphasis on how to interact amongst each other.

Brigade FTX is this weekend.  Howbout some s’mores while pulling security on the FOB?


*My Life is Great (no, you won’t find this in an army field manual)

**Unit Cohesion Event (a party. My non-ROTC friends think this one is hilarious)