Up in the air

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So I haven’t posted for a long time and so much stuff happened.  It’s funny how that works.  Here is my excuse–work blah blah blah end of the year etc etc.

Anyway, I have decided to make up for my negligent behavior and simultaneously take a break from my less-entertaining-to-write term papers by providing a highlights reel of the past few weeks.  Prepare yourself.

The last two labs of the year. Also known as the MS 1 and 2 FTX, which means that these labs were planned and executed by this year’s MS 3s, and everyone got to prepare for more leadership/responsibility coming next year.  There was a big ol’ lane each day, but also something sort of special afterwards–pugil sticks and then combatives.

Hooah moment:  We took over Whitman hill, created a ring of rucksacks, and ta-da, there was  spectacle!  The curious, meandering prefrosh who were touring the campus that weekend were probably wondering what was going on with what our BC later called “giant Q-tips.”

The dining-out/awards ceremony. Parents were invited this year, and my mom came up for it.  She utterly failed to come up with suitably embarrassing childhood anecdotes about me when prompted, besides hinting that I may have not acquired a voice befitting a proper military bearing until very late.  There were really quite a lot of awards–my date, fatigued, eventually succumbed to a hand-to-knee method of applause.

Hooah moment:  I talked for a solid ten minutes about “Avatar” (a film I haven’t actually seen) with Janet Dickerson, the Vice President of Princeton University (!!!), and her husband, who both came out to support us.  The short answer?  They liked Avatar.  And they were both quite hilarious.

The final APFT.  Oooof.

UH-60 Flight

UH-60 (Black Hawk) Flight. It sucks that I don’t have a better picture to offer than this extremely…grounded shot.  All of our cell phones kind of seemed to die at the same time.  Some pictures might surface later, though now that I think about it, pictures might not be a great thing for my ego.  You see, I jumped at the chance to sit in the “hurricane seat,” meaning that because the doors were open, I got hit with the majority of the wind–and probably looked like this the whole time.

Hooah moment: Um, duh, the whole thing.  We flew over NEW YORK CITY.  In a HELICOPTER.  You know, no big deal.  Thank you, NJ National Guard.

The senior roast. I’m not going to say much about this tradition because that would spoil it.  But I will note that it was a good time, and quite fun to see the MS 4s–soon to be LTs–taken down a few notches.

Now, free for the summer!  Oh wait–what’s that?  25 more pages?  Back to work, I guess.

additional photos by Myers


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!”)

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)