by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs
4/11/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The
mission was supposed to be simple: occupy a position overlooking an
enemy supply route, wait for the insurgent resupply patrol to pass, and
kill or capture them all.
That was the order University of Alaska Fairbanks Army ROTC Cadet
Laramie Yancey received. Everything Yancey learned in the past few years
prepared him to carry out the mission in textbook fashion. The cadet
briefed his operations order, staged detailed rehearsals, inspected his
subordinates' supply and ammunition status, and maneuvered his squad to
the ambush position - all strictly by the book. Then something
Yancey saw three male locals huddled around a vehicle. They were at the
right place at the right time, and they fit the general description of
the enemy supply patrol ... except for the fact they weren't armed.
The squad crouched quietly in knee-deep snow, waiting for Yancey's
signal to open fire. The cadet watched, listened, and then did something
he hadn't set out to do: he ordered his squad to expose their position
and approach the civilians for a dialogue.
The dicey vignette was part of the spring joint field training exercise
hosted by the UAF and University of Alaska Anchorage Army ROTC programs
at JBER's Camp Mad Bull April 3 and 4.
Army Maj. Tim Brower, UAA assistant professor of military science, said
the primary purpose of the FTX was to prepare junior cadets for Cadet
Summer Training at Fort Knox, Ky., while also teaching freshman and
sophomore cadets to maneuver as part of an infantry squad.
Cadets cycled through scenarios, which largely conformed to a squad's
primary missions of attack, ambush, reconnaissance and movement to
contact. In most cases, the scenarios were straightforward, resulting in
simulated firefights with role players. In the case of the ambush,
cadets were thrown a tricky curveball.
"The goal is to develop adaptive flexible leaders," Brower said, citing
years of lessons learned fighting insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"[Cadets] have to have mental agility and use sound judgment, realizing
they're no longer conducting an ambush. They have to talk to the
civilians and figure out what's going on.
"Maybe they are enemy," the Grand Rapids, Mich., native continued.
"Maybe they're supporting the enemy. Maybe they're truly civilians who
have needs. It becomes much more of a critical-thinking exercise for the
When Yancey made the decision to encounter the three men, he entered
into a complex situation where he had to look out for his squad's
security, assess the trio's threat level, and provide aid to the men who
were stranded because their car broke down.
"A scenario like this is good for two reasons," Yancey said. "One is,
they say, once you [cross the line of departure], the plan is out the
window. I believe that's true. With these scenarios, they're creating
leaders who don't just check the box, but adaptive leaders who can deal
with any situation thrown at them.
"Two - is the worst possible thing you can do is kill civilians," he
continued. "And you will have to deal with civilians on the battlefield.
So far, in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have been fighting in urban
environments where you have to figure out who is the enemy and who
Yancey, a native of Starkey, Ore., said he was interested in the Army
because he was looking for a way to pay for college. Wanting to attend
UAF, he enlisted in the Alaska Army National Guard. He said if he didn't
like the Guard, he would serve his term and separate. If he did like
it, he would investigate making a career of military service.
"I found myself liking it more and more - the people you work with, the
camaraderie and the mission," Yancey said. "I liked it so much, I
decided I wanted to go active duty. I wanted more responsibility, and
that was when I decided ROTC was the thing for me."
Yancey said he decided to take advantage of the Simultaneous Membership
Program, a National Guard and Army Reserve program, which allows cadets
to attend drills while they earn their commission. During drill
weekends, SMP cadets earn sergeant's pay and serve in leadership
positions under the tutelage of officers.
Brower said there are a number of avenues active and Reserve component
service members can take to earn a commission through ROTC.
The major said he feels the best route is the Active Duty Option.
Soldiers are required to have at least two years completed toward a
degree to be eligible for ADO, because they have two years to earn their
degree and commission. The payoff is ADO Soldiers continue to earn
their full pay and benefits while attending college and can also use
their GI Bill to pay for school.
Soldiers who don't have two years' college can apply for two-, three-
and four-year Green to Gold scholarships. They are required to leave
active duty, but tuition and books are covered, and they receive a
monthly stipend. The GI Bill can also be used with the scholarship to
take care of room and fees.
Brower said drilling Alaska National Guard members receive a state
tuition waiver. Guardsmen and reservists can also compete for ROTC
scholarships and may be eligible for education benefits from their
Regardless of where prior-service troops come from, Brower said their
contributions are valuable to the ROTC programs at UAA and UAF.
"The prior-service Soldiers are the strength of our program," the major
said. "Most of them have deployed, so they bring the knowledge and
experience they have had over the past five or more years to our
program, and it makes us that much better."
Brower concluded by saying Army ROTC has one overriding mission.
"We're preparing cadets to serve on active duty, the Guard or in the Reserve," he said. "We're preparing them to lead Soldiers."
For more information on earning a commission through Army ROTC, call the
UAA cadre at 786-6093 or 786-6092, or visit www.goarmy.com.