FORT BLISS, Texas - One of the most important cornerstones of our nation’s military is leadership. As members of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, cadets are expected to properly prepare themselves for becoming the Army’s next generation of decision-makers and leaders.
Distinguishing themselves as some of the most elite in their battalion, 12 cadets from the University of Texas at El Paso’s “Miners Battalion” partnered with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Friday to conduct weapons training with B Company, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, in preparation for their upcoming ROTC Ranger Challenge competition.
With an Abrams tank and Bradley infantry vehicle establishing the backdrop for training, cadets rotated through three stations as they familiarized themselves with the M9 pistol, M16A2 rifle and M249 squad automatic weapon platforms.
“Our purpose here is to get them familiarized with these weapon systems so they have success when they go through the Ranger Challenge,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Ramsay, a Ranger-qualified infantryman who coordinated the training.
Combat-tested soldiers from the “Steel Tigers” Battalion trained cadets on how to correctly assemble and disassemble the platforms, as well as establishing the standard for clearing procedures and functions checks.
“My instructors and demonstrators have multiple years of experience on those weapons, not only in garrison training but also in a combat environment,” said Ramsay. “They are subject-matter experts on all of these weapon systems.”
Friday’s familiarization training should prove both beneficial and practical for the team, particularly since the ROTC program only has a limited number of M16s in their arsenal, which are primarily used for UTEP’s color guard, said Cadet Michael Moffeit.
“I think for us, especially for cadets who aren’t prior service, it’s a chance for them to get some firsthand experience with the weapons and their capabilities,” said Moffeit. “Also for prior-service cadets, it’s a good refresher so they can stay knowledgeable with the weapon systems.”
Moffeit, who previously served as a combat medic in the National Guard, said the knowledge cadets received from Steel Tiger soldiers will make a big impact not only during the Ranger Challenge, but also when cadets enter the active Army component as second lieutenants.
“In essence it allows the ROTC to push out more trained and better-qualified leaders to the Army,” he said.
With the Ranger Challenge held annually, Miner cadets will travel as a team to compete in the event against other battalions in the 5th ROTC Brigade, which consists of colleges and universities from Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The challenge, which consists of seven scored events, will test teams on physical fitness, orienteering, rifle marksmanship, grenade proficiency, weapon assembly/disassembly, 10-kilometer road march, and this year’s added event, the construction of a one-rope bridge.