Cal Poly and UCSB train at Camp SLO

“The rule is you puke in your shirt on the helicopter or else it will go everywhere,” one cadet said before entering the helicopter.

More than 85 cadets from Cal Poly and University of California Santa Barbara this past weekend to conduct Fall field training exercises (FTX).

“The goal of FTX is to train the third years … and the primary focus of ROTC is to build and train commissioned officers for the Army,” Dimalanta said.

The FTX is also used to introduce civilians who are interested in joining ROTC or are just interested to see the training of the cadets. It is also an important step in the training of the third years and fourth years. The fourth years lead the event with the help of the Cadre (instructors), while the third years are learning to take new leadership responsibilities over the newer cadets in their platoons. One of the main goals of the FTX was to familiarize the cadets with an obstacle course, the shooting range, repelling, weapons cleaning and land navigation.

The cadets were picked up in a Chinook helicopter on the lower soccer field and were transported to Camp San Luis Obispo.

The 44 Cal Poly cadets were split into two groups and went through the obstacle course that tested their physical and mental capabilities.

“Be safe, have fun, stay hydrated,” Cadet Christopher Downey, a civil engineering senior, said. “Mission first, safety always.”

For some of the participants it was their first time engaging in a course like this. While completing the obstacles they pushed one another with competition and encouragement.

“If you fall, I am smoking you,” Downey said to keep a peer going.

One of the obstacles requires cadets to get over the beams without any hands. Although this task seems easy the difficulty depends on the cadet’s height. Photo by Megan Hassler

One of the obstacles requires cadets to get over the beams without any hands. Although this task seems easy the difficulty depends on the cadet’s height. Photo by Megan Hassler

After completing the obstacles the cadets took a quick lunch break. One cadet took out his phone and began playing music, many of the others began to sing along and dance.  Cadet Benjamin Arrona, a history senior, and Cadet Nicholas Estrada, a forestry and natural resources junior leaned against their packs sitting on the grass and danced to “I’m On a Boat” by Lonely Island featuring T-Pain and “Hot ‘N Cold” by Katy Perry.

After the singing they ate. Each cadet was issued MREs, or meals ready to eat. One packaged MRE included vegetable manicotti in tomato sauce, a water-activated heating pack for heating, crackers, carrot pound cake, peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut cocoa beverage powder, a hot beverage bag, pears, lemon flavored iced tea drink mix, salt, pepper, napkin, matches, spoon, mini bottle of Tabasco and breath mints.

The cadets also bargain with each other and trade different parts of their MREs.

“Anybody got any lemonade, wanna bargain?” r said. After the exchange he said, “pleasure doing business with you.”

After lunch the cadets took a bus across the camp to the shooting range. Here they were introduced to three weapons: M16, M240 and M249. This activity is meant to familiarize them with the weapons. In this exercise they were required to load each weapon and shoot a series of rounds at targets.

After all cadets had gone through the training with each weapon they moved on to the repelling site, Fort Merriam. Each cadet was required to learn the basics and of tying, repelling and belaying on a training wall before moving onto the larger rock wall.

Before the end of FTX the participants learned to clean weapons and were tested in their land navigation skills. These cadets are also Cal Poly students and while they take part in labs and learn all of the skills that are required for their various majors they also learn these skills. The average student has never shot a M249 or repelled of a wall with a rope they have tied. However this experience is not limited to ROTC cadets, they offer these trainings to any civilian who wishes to participate.

Every Thursday morning the cadets have lab training. Lab is where the cadets apply the skills they have learned previously in their training. It is held on the lower soccer field and anyone is welcome to train with the cadets. The third years lead the exercises and are evaluated by the fourth years.

All of these skills are ones that will be tested when the cadets attend Leadership Development Assessment Course (LDAC) in the summer between their third and fourth year of ROTC. The Spring FTX is is held just before the third years attend this leadership course at Fort Lewis, Washington for about a month.

“The Spring FTX is geared toward tactical training and getting them prepared to go to Fort Lewis, while Fall FTX is more of an introduction to the Army and the things you will learn,” Captain Jennifer Hill said.

Also Nov. 13 and 14 is Ranger Challenge. Cal Poly cadets and any willing civilians will compete against the cadets of other schools. Fresno State, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Santa Barbara and a school from Guam are all expected to compete.