JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets from several area universities participated in a Joint Field Training Exercise here April 4-7.
The Joint FTX was primarily designed to prepare third-year cadets for their upcoming capstone event this summer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“We have six ROTC programs represented here that are all combined together – Princeton, Rutgers, Hofstra, St. Johns, Seton Hall and Fordham Universities,” explained Lt. Col. Peter Knight, professor of Military Science at Princeton University and officer-in-charge of the Joint FTX.
“What we’re doing here is replicating the training experience that these cadets will get out at the Leader Development and Assessment Course,” he continued. “This Joint FTX allows us to pool resources and pool the manpower of the collective programs into a cadet population large enough to simulate that LDAC training methodology.”
Cadets participating in the Joint FTX participated in training events such as day and night land navigation, platoon patrolling techniques, weapons maintenance, and squad situational training exercises such as reacting to an ambush and direct enemy fire.
“This really boosts morale and confidence in your basic soldiering abilities – land navigation, fundamentals in situational training exercises,” said Cadet Anthony Pagano, a junior from Rowan University whose ROTC program is hosted by Princeton. “Everyone’s a rifleman first, I like to believe, so this really builds on that.”
“It’s great to see these kids come together to pull off a training event that is somewhat complex, and they’re balancing that with their academic commitments, and they really have to become great managers of their time and effort,” Knight added.
The Joint FTX was planned and led by ROTC seniors, who evaluated the juniors comprising the bulk of the trainees with a handful of sophomores and freshmen rounding out the ranks.
“(The juniors) are the ones who are bound for the Leader Development and Assessment Course this summer; they’re the ones who are going to be the main focus,” Knight explained. “The seniors here, they’re running the show; the planning and the coordination was among them. It’s fantastic to see these kids who are so close to being lieutenants taking charge and running this event.”
The Cadet ranks were dispersed into mixed-school squads for the Joint FTX, adding to the training’s realism and complexity, Knight explained.
“Here, these kids are being put into units with kids they’ve never met before, and now they have to organize them and get them moving to accomplish a common goal,” Knight said. “That’s exactly what they’ll be made to do out at LDAC, and it’s exactly what they’ll have to do when they get to their Army units as they get Soldiers from all over.”
“You train all the time with your own school and cadets, who you’re familiar with, but coming out here to JFTX, that’s really valuable,” said Cadet Robert Dougherty, a sophomore at Princeton University.
“You’re with other schools, and it’s the best simulation of LDAC you’re going to get before you actually go there,” added Cadet Brian Manning, a sophomore at Rutgers University.
The next step for these juniors will be LDAC, a 29-day course that trains ROTC Cadets to Army standards, develops their leadership skills and evaluates their officer potential. Successful completion of the course is a prerequisite to becoming an Army officer through ROTC. A combination of a Cadet’s performance at LDAC, along with their academic grades, and other military training opportunities, are used as criteria in the annual assessment and placement of second lieutenants into the basic officer branches of the Army.
“To see something like (the Joint FTX) come to fruition and be executed and become the worthwhile event that it is speaks volumes for them in terms of what they’ve learned in the course of this program,” Knight said. “It just makes them that much better prepared to become Army officers.”