Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Friday, April 11, 2014

ROTC cadets train at JBER, prepare to lead Soldiers

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 unexpected happened.

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 cadets."

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 isn't."

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 components.

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.

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