Sam Houston State University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) hosted their annual joint field training exercise (JFTX) on Feb. 10 and 11 at the Field Leader Reaction Course for students to enhance their tactical skills, learn the importance of team building, and get a taste of what war could be like.
After four months of planning, the 36-hour event came to fruition. The event was comprised of 132 cadets from SHSU,
PVAMU, SFASU, and UofH. Students were given real, army issued uniforms, weighted rubber guns, and rucksacks to live out of for the next few days. Students could not shower, and could only eat packaged “meals ready to eat.”
Seniors (MS4 students), arrived on Friday afternoon to set up the training exercise and spend the night. Freshman, (MS1), sophomores (MS2), and juniors (MS3) arrived in segmented groups on Saturday morning via Blackhawk helicopters.
The helicopters transported the groups in unfamiliar locations inside the 1,400 acre training perimeter. Students spent the next six hours fulfilling training missions such as ambushes, raids, and various battle drills.
SHSU senior Kalie Parker believes part of the realism is how they did not know what was going to happen, and could only do so much to prepare before applying their knowledge.
“We were able to read up on procedures like battle drills, which are mapped out, by-the-book procedures even though everything could instantly change out in the field, and we have classes on these skills,” Parker said.
After team building missions that required critical thinking and resourcefulness, the students had dinner to rejuvenate for three hours of night land navigation.
“Land navigation is when you’re given a map, a compass, and grid coordinates to plot a specific location,” Parker said. “Then you have to find the location, which was more difficult to do at night. We were given five plot points, and we had to solve at least three of them.”
On Feb. 12, students were grouped by classification and were expected to complete an obstacle course, and then road march back to their Tactical Operations Center (T.O.C.). SHSU senior and Battalion Commander Christian Perez explained the purpose of T.O.C.
“Everything runs through T.O.C. before the students can receive their provisions and fulfill their assigned duties,” Perez said. “This is just a central command place so to speak.”
All four schools gathered round to end the day with an after action review (A.A.R.) to share their experiences, state what they appreciated about the program, and discuss what aspects could use improvement. Then, SHSU students cleaned the training area to leave the location cleaner than they found it.
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Davis believes this hyper realistic training exercise shows students that a hands on experience gives them an experience a book can’t replicate.
“What they learn on campus is not the extent of what they’ll learn on the field,” Davis said. “There’s 273 ROTC programs nation-wide, and each of them has a different way of learning and different skill sets that help them become successful leaders when they go in the army. It’s really about building relationships with each other, learning from each other, and sharing how to take tactical skills and turn them into leadership skills for life.”
SHSU senior Alexis Carney summed up what it was like to face the unexpected, adapt, and overcome obstacles at the JFTX.
“It’s like a big dance, and we have the choreography, but then you’re throwing in random pieces in real time that that we have to dance around,” Carney said. “It’s great because you get close to everybody and you’ll never know if you’ll be battle buddies.”