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Leaders of tomorrow

University of Alaska Fairbanks ROTC cadets train at Fort Wainwright to become officers

University of Alaska Fairbanks ROTC cadets

photos by David Bedard/Fort Wainwright PAO

University of Alaska Fairbanks ROTC cadets carry a simulated casualty to a medical evacuation helicopter landing zone after a simulated suicide vehicle borne bomb “exploded” in the cadet platoon’s perimeter Oct. 4. The situational training exercises during the first weekend of October at Fort Wainwright’s Combined Arms Collective Training Facility focused on full-spectrum operations ranging from working with local media and area officials to squad attacks on enemy strong points.

 David Bedard
Fort Wainwright PAO

A suspicious van approached the traffic control point operated by a platoon of University of Alaska Fairbanks ROTC cadets.

The cadets halted the van outside the perimeter and checked the two occupants against the black list, detaining them. While the two locals were being questioned and searched, cadets scoured the van, discovering a hidden cache of blasting caps and initiating devices.

Through their efforts, the cadets successfully captured a roadside bomb team before they could accomplish their mission of disrupting or destroying coalition forces.

The scenario was part of the UAF ROTC's situational training exercises at Fort Wainwright's Combined Arms Collective Training Facility during the first weekend of October.

Second Lt. Joseph Fuller, a UAF ROTC Gold Bar recruiter who was recently commissioned from UAF, said the weekend's training was the first leadership lab for the school year and is intended to introduce Military Science I and II cadets to the program and leadership assessment standards to the MS III cadets. The leadership assessments are written report cards evaluating a cadet's performance while serving in a leadership position.

Fuller said the MS III year is the most important one for cadets, because it is when they are evaluated with equal weight given to leadership assessments, grade point averages and extracurricular activities. Based on their overall performance during the course of the year, cadets are assigned a sequence number that determines their assigned branch of the Army and their duty station.

"The MS IIIs, this is the crunch year for them," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Manning, UAF ROTC professor of military science. "Next year, they will go to the Leadership Development Assessment Course at Fort Lewis, (Wash.). That is their final exam, so to speak, for everything they have learned in ROTC."

Cadet Jason Garcia, cadet battalion commander, said LDAC is a month-long course between a student's junior and senior years through which cadets are trained on how to be officers under intensive field conditions. The course determines the largest part of an MS III cadet's leadership assessment score.

"It's like a toned-down basic training," Garcia said of LDAC. "For a lot of the kids, it's their first time that a large group of cadets meet in an organized manner. They run through STX lanes, patrolling lanes and (forward operating base) operations. It's geared more to today's Army."

Fuller said the emphasis of the ROTC training curriculum has recently changed from purely tactical to preparing future officers for full-spectrum operations, including peacekeeping, media relations and negotiating with civilian leaders.

The UAF ROTC cadet corps reflect the diverse nature of college students seeking a commission. Both Fuller and Garcia are Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, having graduated from the same Basic Combat Training class and eventually serving their combat tours together with the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Fuller is serving as a Gold Bar recruiter while he waits for the availability of an Aviation Officer Basic Course date. He said he could have pursued his commission before the 172nd SBCT's 2005 to 2006 deployment, but felt he wanted experience to become a more effective officer.

"I looked at my career and realized, 'Hey, you know what? Let's get this deployment knocked out, get all of the experience and background knowledge,'" Fuller said. "I am a hundred times happier that I did that, because I got so much experience from deploying and coming back."

Cadet Steven Foreman, cadet personnel officer, had no prior military service and said he joined ROTC right after finishing high school in Arizona. He said he filled out a four-year ROTC scholarship application online and input the six places he wanted to go to school and was awarded the scholarship and accepted to UAF under the Western Undergraduate Exchange program.

Cadet Jordan Gambrell, cadet operations officer, is the son of Maj. Glenn Gambrell, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Rear Detachment commander. Although he grew up with a military parent, it was not always Jordan Gambrell's plan to become an Army officer.

"I didn't know what I was going to do out of high school," Jordan Gambrell said. "But then I realized that I already knew a lot of information about the military and have a military background, so it is something that would be easy to get into."

Jordan Gambrell said he believes earning his commission will provide him valuable experience necessary for his ambition to eventually work for the U.S. Department of State.

"I think that being an officer is a good steppingstone to any job, really," Jordan Gambrell said. "It looks good on a resume."

Foreman said the cadet corps' mentorship program assists in leveling a lot of the cadets' experiences and capabilities — both military and academic. He said MS IV cadets mentor MS III cadets, who in turn mentor MS I and II cadets. The ROTC cadet lounge is usually occupied with students of like academic majors studying together to ensure no cadet falls behind for a lack of academic excellence. Additionally, military veterans contribute their experience to the benefit of other cadets, even at the MS I and II level, Foreman said.

Click photos to enlarge

Second Lt. Joseph Fuller, UAF ROTC Gold Bar recruiter, role plays as media on the battlefield, asking tough questions of Cadet Jacob Blackburn Oct 4.

Cadet Phillip Chrisman stands watch in a guard tower during traffic control point operations Oct. 4

Cadet Joshua Hoy stands watch during traffic control point operations Oct. 4.

Cadet Michael Dinnocenzo stands watch during traffic control joint operations Oct. 4.

Cadet Brady McManus radios a situation report on his to higher headquarters, while cadets Mackay Barr and Anthony Aponte confer on medical evacuation procedures after a simulated suicide vehicle borne bomb “exploded” in the cadet platoon’s perimeter Oct 4.

Cadet Hugh Foster scans his sector for any outside threats as a van approaches his platoon’s traffic control point Oct 4. The University of Alaska Fairbanks ROTC carried out situational training exercises during the first weekend of October at Fort Wainwright’s Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, training in squad attack, entering and clearing a building, knocking out a bunker, presence patrols, curfew enforcement and cordon and knock battle drills.

Cadets Mackay Barr and Anthony Aponte, Military Science III cadets, confer on medical evacuation procedures after a simulated suicide vehicle borne bomb “exploded” in the cadet platoon’s perimeter Oct. 4. The University of Alaska Fairbanks ROTC carried out situational training exercises during the first weekend of October at Fort Wainwright’s Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, primarily focusing on preparing MS III cadets for the Leadership Development Assessment Course.