FTX organization changes draw praise

Picture from Norwich University Army ROTC.

After weeks of preparation, Norwich Army cadets held their annual Field Training Exercise (FTX) in mid-October, which received praise from many of the students in attendance compared to criticism in years past.
On Thursday, Oct. 11 all over campus, Norwich cadets could be seen in uniform walking towards Shapiro Field House with gear on their backs for a weekend full of outdoor learning at the FTX, the Army field training exercise that happens once a semester.
For four days and three nights, first and second year cadets who are members of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (AROTC) Pioneer Battalion stayed in different locations on Paine Mountain to receive “good training that will help them prepare for advance camp,” said Army ROTC cadet Kaylee Walker, 20, a senior physics major from Fort Myers, Fla.
For many, this FTX was a requirement, but for others, they volunteered hoping that this could help them become contracted.

To be contracted or on scholarship means that the student has already committed to becoming an Army officer upon graduation. To be “pursuing,” a student is participating in the ROTC department and wants to receive a contract or scholarship into the Army but hasn’t yet.
The only cadets allowed on the FTX this year were “those who are contracted, those who have a scholarship, and those who are inbetween pursuing and being contracted,” said AROTC cadet Zachary Jenkins, 20, a sophomore majoring in communications with a minor in writing and leadership, from Monroe, Mich.
“We used to have everyone in the Army department go on the FTX,” Walker said. But having fewer numbers allows the cadets on the FTX “to have more supplies, and can get more training in.”
For the senior Army cadets that are contracted or on scholarship, advance camp was a required experience that happened just this past summer. These cadets are commonly referred to as MS IV’s.
For Pioneer Battalion’s Charlie Company, the MS IV’s had to “stay” at one of the different training lanes and “they were the experts on that lane,” Walker explained.

Picture from Norwich University Army ROTC

A lane is a “scenario that you run through with a squad which is usually comprised of about nine people,” Jenkins said.
For this FTX, there were a number of lanes that the different companies did. They included: react to contact, which is a drill that has a squad or platoon receiving direct gun fire from an enemy source; an ambush, which is when the squad will use concealment and the element of surprise to attack the enemy; and react to indirect fire, which is gunfire that is fired without a direct line of sight between the gun and its target.
When Army cadet Nicole Hess, 21, a senior criminal justice major sat down and asked the third year Army cadets (MS III’s) how they felt about the FTX, many of them said “they felt comfortable and a lot more confident in troop-leading procedures (TLP).”
TLP’s are a sequence of actions that prepares leadership to manage time efficiently when they are planning, preparing, executing and assessing combat missions.
“I think it went better than all the previous years,” Hess said. “The training value was on and people actually got things out of [the FTX].”
“We weren’t standing in formations for 40 minutes for no reason,” Jenkins said. “[The Army cadre] trusted the MS IV’s this time, they trusted the squad leaders, and it really showed out there because the level of efficiency went skyrocketing.”
“When I was a freshman, the FTX was a joke. There was too much downtime,” Hess said. “People didn’t know what to teach, there were no standards.”
Hess credits the change in momentum her sophomore year to Colonel Miller arriving to the Army department.
“MS II year came along, and it was a little bit better because that was when we got our new Colonel,” Hess said. “He actually pushed out the standards.”
Hess says that it was “hard to change the way things run and what cadets are used to” so it wasn’t until her third year that things were really showing improvement. The MS III’s all “do their training” so they wanted to “do well in advance camp.”
Having fewer numbers on the FTX was just one of the changes that Colonel Miller changed.
Due to there being less cadets on this FTX, it also means fewer freshmen (MS I’s) and (MS II’s) than in years past.
“The MS I’s and the MS II’s that were able to go on the FTX do get some good training in,” Walker said. “They were able to watch the whole process of what the MS III’s were doing with their planning and executing phases.”
“Instead of pulling security and just staring off into the trees the MS I’s and MS II’s were brought in and they would watch how the squad leader would plan the route and shoot an azimuth on the compass how to plot the point, what will the squad do if they come under fire,” Hess describes.
This is training that they will “need for advance camp” Hess comments.

Picture from Norwich University Army ROTC.

This wasn’t the only thing they did all weekend though. On the final day, before heading back to campus, geared with their rucks and their rifle, the Army cadets ended the FTX on Sunday October 14 with a six-mile release ruck.
A release ruck is a ruck march where “you start and go as fast as you want to. You can run at any point, but you had a rifle, you had your helmet on, your eye protection, and your ruck was going to be a minimum of 35lbs,” Jenkins said.
All of the cadets were required to carry a ruck that was filled with: an extra uniform; a fleece jacket; the wet weather uniform; an extra pair of boots; four pairs of extra socks; eye protection; gloves; three extra uniform shirts; four extra sets of undergarments; a three-layer sleeping bag; a uniform fleece hat; a helmet; an insolation mat; an assault pack (smaller regulated back pack); a headlamp; a compass; two water canteens; a hygiene kit; a first aid kit; a poncho; the Army issued load bearing vest (LBV); and uniform patches.
While most of these items are required, some of them are optional. Jenkins had decided to have his water “on top” of the ruck so it was “easily accessible”.
The weather for the FTX weekend was “good” as it was only raining on one day, and dry the rest of the weekend Walker noted.

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