W&M ROTC participates in field training| April 27, 2009
Keeping watch from a darkened house in the quiet hours of early morning, Harrison Mann was pretty confident in his success. He and his fellow ROTC cadets only had to keep enemy raiders from taking their prisoner for 30 more minutes, and they had been successful so far. That is, until they heard a voice from above.
"Bang, you're dead," it said.
Mann shined his flashlight up and saw faces in the ceiling.
"One of our instructors (a special forces non-commissioned officer) and a (William & Mary) senior had snuck in through rafters that I didn't even know existed," he said, adding that he shouted in frustration "as the realization sunk in that we had been utterly outsmarted."
It's an experience that Mann will not soon forget, and it's for lessons like this that he and his fellow William & Mary ROTC cadets participated in field training exercises at Fort Pickett recently.
Approximately 25 William & Mary cadets participated in the training weekend, during which they focused on practicing military operations in urban terrain (MOUT). The cadets, who trained alongside students from Christopher Newport University, were placed into a mock village constructed on the grounds of Fort Pickett, armed with paintball guns and presented with various scenarios in which they had to apply their military training.
Spencer Sullivan ('10) said that the mission he was given was to conduct a cordon and search of a town and to locate and capture or destroy a person designated as a "high-value target" (HVT) to prevent further attacks on U.S. positions.
"As part of the mission we had to establish security around a mock village, establish a traffic control point, and then move into the village to capture the HVT," said Sullivan, a history major. "This included extended face to face dealings with ‘civilians,' information gathering, and hurdling a variety of obstacles we might actually face in a similar situation in Iraq or Afghanistan."
Sullivan said the experience provided him with "invaluable experience in dealing with civilians on the battlefield, which is something we get little training on and yet is such an important part of what we do over there."
In addition to the MOUT training, the cadets also were able to practice on the fort's shooting range.
"It isn't often that we get range time," said Sullivan. "For most cadets this weekend's training is the only opportunity they get."
For Battalion Commander Kristen Clowser ('09), the weekend was also a chance to put her leadership and organizational skills to the test.
Her mission for the weekend was to "prepare and execute training for the battalion," said the government major. "This involved everything from planning a timeline of events, assisting as a safety on an M-4 Range, and participating as a non-combatant villager in our MOUT exercise."
Clowser said the weekend taught her how much time and effort is required for these types of operations.
"To make even the simplest events happen, we had to work as a team," she said. "Learning how to get the team to work as one, efficient machine can be a tough challenge. However, the experience is a good life lesson."
Closwer said that the most enjoyable part of the weekend for her was getting exposure to "the same technology and training that our troops are using on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"The mission of the Army has definitely become more nuanced and soldiers are asked not only to be fighters, but also to be peacekeepers and nation builders," she said. "So I'm glad that cadets are getting a taste of this mission in ROTC."
For Mann, being able to watch Clowser and the other cadet leaders in action was also a good learning experience.
"These exercises always give us underclassmen the opportunity to observe and learn from our cadet leadership," said Mann, a Middle Eastern studies major. "You learn what behaviors to emulate and also what not to do when you're in charge."
And one thing he'll remember next time?
"I'm never letting somebody pop out of the ceiling on me like that again," he said.