I have been crazy anxious to fill the masses in on my weekend. I went up to Idaho City (the former, thriving, gold mining metropolis of Idaho turned redneck-inhabited nature getaway) with ROTC for a Field Training Exercise (FTX) last weekend.
It was a blast. We met at BSU at 5:30am, bussed up to Idaho City, then marched up to camp. We busted open an MRE, then got ready to split into our squads. We had 6 “lanes” or courses altogether. We were “fighting” a made up enemy – the South Atropian Peoples’ Army (SAPA) – for an enhanced reality to it all.
High Angle Rescue
We learned how to tie a few knots, along with a Swiss Seat, which is making your own harness out of rope for repelling.
This was a map and scouting exercise where the bulk of us held down a secure position while two teams circled around the left and right looking for a hostage.
Move to Contact
We marched a little over one kilometer, cresting 5 giant hills, to were we expected enemy contact. We started up the 6th hill, when the enemy comes in behind us. We run down into a ravine where there’s lots of cover and take them out. As we were moving, all of a sudden I just drop. I fell knee-deep into some kind of natural well! I was soaked. Wet boots and socks for the rest of the weekend -__-
Key Leader Engagement (KLE)
This one was the most fun. It added a very real dynamic to all our training. Basically, we walked into a village where there was a village elder and his two sons. He was upset because the US Army had bombed his village fighting SAPA. We were there to follow-up and build his trust again in the Army. Essentially, our squad formed a 360-degree security perimeter, while our squad leader and one other were in the middle talking to the village elder. The Atropian people (and Muslims in general) are known to be touchy. So sometimes the sons would come up and give us a hug, etc. It made me super uncomfortable, knowing they could be the enemy and that I had a firearm. Super funny, though…one of the sons asked our squad leader to come and see his goats. He declined, saying he was talking to the son’s father, but one of our guys, thinking to help the situation, says, “I’ll go and see your goats.” Well, they wander off, and the son comes back without him. He stabbed our dude. One of our guys yells, “Blazek’s down,” and our squad leader, mid-convo with the head honcho yells, “WHAT THE F***?!” One of them ran for an AK, so we off’d them. Stressful! It gave me a very real appreciation for our servicemen out there on foreign soil doing these exact things.
We pushed the ROTC Chevy Silverado up a hill in neutral, in addition to bringing two tractor tires, two telephone poles, and two water jugs with us. Ridiculous. It was an incredible team-building experience, though.
Sunday, as our last lane, we went out on a one-kilometer patrol through the mountains. Every once in a while, one of the Cadre (ROTC leaders) would yell, “INCOMING,” and we’d dive down, drop our rucksacks, and assault up the hill. We’d get to the top, to find that the enemy had fled, so we’d go down, get our gear, and pursue. We’d also get reports that one of our guys had been killed, so we’d have to carry them with their gear back to where we had established security (back to our 360 perimeter with leadership in the middle).
It was an awesome, physical, intense weekend. I loved it. Aside from being able to eat whatever I wanted, due to the strain of all we did, it gave me a greater conviction that the military truly is something I want to pursue.
To close out the weekend, we ruck-marched (marching with all our gear in rucksacks) pretty dang far to a helipad, where the Idaho National Guard picked us up in Blackhawk helicopters. So sick. If the Army is where I’m headed, I either want to branch Armor (tanks) or aviation (helicopters), so it was almost like a job shadow for me 🙂