AAR: Joint Field Training Exercises

From March 25 – 28, 2nd Brigade ROTC formed up at Ft. Dix for a weekend of LDAC preparation.

LDAC, or the Leadership Development and Assessment Course, is essentially the big (35-day long) test that we need to rock before we get commissioned.  We go to LDAC the summer before senior year, so I still have a bit of time.

That’s why JFTX was optional for MS1s and 2s.  I have to say I was reminded of this many times by many different people in the weeks leading up to it.  Some of the 2s were deciding they couldn’t come anymore and when Wednesday rolled around, I started to question whether volunteering nearly four precious days was a good idea this semester, especially after being warned that as a 1 I wouldn’t be participating in tactical lanes but rather doing what is colloquially known as “bitchwork.”

So it was kind of surprising when Tiger Battalion rolled up in our vans (including the very macho family caravan) and the three 1s found out that we had been assigned to squads.  I didn’t end up staying in mine–sorry about that, second squad, second platoon–because there weren’t enough snazzy M-4s to go around.

Was this good news or bad?  Well, I’ll just go ahead and admit that I had a good time being lazy.  True, I wasn’t getting any of my homework done, but I did get to sleep in the OPFOR/MS4 tent (translation: I got to sleep) and I got to dress up and play OPFOR–opposing forces–for the STX lane that Princeton ran (translation: I got to chill out with the MS4s a bunch*).

Even though I wasn’t actually participating in the training per se, from where I was I got to observe how the MS4s from all the schools were running everything.  Also, because Princeton was in charge of day and night land nav on Friday, I was allowed to do both courses as well as take the written exam.

Land Navigation

Using a map, protractor, a set of coordinates and a note card, the cadets use the first part of their 5 alotted hours to find the locations of the points they need to find (5/8 is a passing score). photo by Zate

And (drumroll) the 1s passed!  5 out of 5 at night, too, which I’d like to think was aided by my stubborn insistence on navigating with the north star.  Am I the only one that thinks Polaris is the shit?  But really, Princeton totally dominated land nav, so go us.

On Saturday, I played OPFOR for the Movement to Contact STX lane that Princeton was in charge of.  We had plenty of people pretending to be “Ubadai Brotherhood” members, so for some of the iterations I walked with the squad and observed how they completed the task.  And for the second-to-last iteration, I was told I could jump in the squad and do it with them (though of course I knew what would happen).  For a weapon, I took one of the wooden OPFOR AK-47s and shouted “bang bang,” which may or may not have been quite comical.

The most eye-opening thing about the weekend was getting to see the cadets from other programs.  Some of them were very squared away, and some of them really weren’t (and I’m talking about 3s–the ones going to LDAC this summer).

I hadn’t expected to, but I came away from the experience very proud of Princeton.  I came away thinking that the program we have here has something good going on.  Our small size actually means that we get a lot of flexibility as well as individualized attention from our cadre, and we have easy access to both Ft. Dix and that patch of forest near the canal that we call Rambo field (something that I had totally taken for granted but really would be much harder to replicate in a big city).

I have yet to decide whether I’m going to do it again next year.

Look forward to a word or two from one of the other MS1s that was assigned a weapon and did the whole weekend as part of a squad; I’ve forced him to share his thoughts.

*Highlights from hanging out with the 4s:

  • Acquiring a vast amount of (sometimes childish) MRE expertise that they learned from LDAC (don’t drink the milkshakes! chicken dumpling is the best!)
  • Witnessing the creation of “Army Mario,” or what happens when certain OPFOR wear black-arctic-warfare-fleece-pants-with-suspenders over their inside-out ACUs
  • Listening to tunes
  • Earning the inexplicable re-working of my last name (it now sounds like “Mot-ANNS!”)