Summer 2017 - Cadet Essays

Sept. 25, 2017

The Cadets of Tiger Battalion share their experiences from this summer:

Cadet Mikayla Blaska: Basic Camp

This summer I had the opportunity to attend Basic Camp which was 32 days of Army Officer training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Over the course of a month we were taught battle tactics, first aid, radio etiquette, how to shoot an M16, land navigation, and much more. Training included a 10k ruck march, a CS gas chamber, a high ropes and obstacle course, and 4 days in the field. Although camp was physically and mentally challenging the friendships I made and the lessons I learned made it all worth it. We learned to work together, the attributes of a good leader and in that, the importance of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. I met so many amazing people that will have a lasting impact in my life. Overall, I had an incredible summer as Basic Camp helped me to grow as a future Army leader and as a person. 

Cadet Kevin Bryson: Cultural Understanding and language Program (CULP)

From May 21st to July 21st I was fortunate enough to participate in a CULP Mission. CULP is a program designed to give cadets an opportunity to work with foreign cadet’s and militaries. While it was an awesome opportunity to travel, and see the world, USACC (United States Army Cadet Command) implemented this program into its curriculum to give cadet’s a chance at crossing cultural barriers and to foster an understanding of the importance of culture.
In today’s world, the United States Army and military is present in a number of other countries, for a wide array of reasons. We are in some countries considered to be a “combat theater” and others as allies. Regardless of the reason, every soldier, seaman, marine, and airman now becomes a quasi-diplomat of the United States. Their actions in, and out, of uniform in these other countries display what the citizens and military of the United States represent. If one is not conscious of cultural norms or attitudes, a service member in another country may be seen as ignorant. This perception does not reflect well for the United States military or the country as a whole. 

When I first arrived in Peru at their Army Military Academy “Escuela Militar de Chorrillos”, I was in awe by all of the Spanish language being spoken. I understand Peru is a Spanish speaking country, but it does not really have any impact on you until you encounter it first-hand. I was a bit nervous at first talking with my Peruvian counterparts, but over time my basic Spanish vocabulary increased tenfold.  In the following 3 weeks of my stay at the academy, I had a chance to use a translator to give a presentation, train with the Peruvian weapon systems, and absorb their “civilian” culture by evenings out in the Capital of Lima. From the lomo saltado (steak and rice) to the sandy hills of La Tiza, I experienced a different life style than I would have ever had in the United States.

I can truly say that having the opportunity to travel to another country to learn and develop my cultural awareness could not have been possible without the help of my cadre members of Princeton Army ROTC and USACC. For this I am truly thankful. Finally, it can be assured that the lessons I learned in becoming a more culturally aware citizen, cadet, college student, and future Army Officer will not be forgotten. More so than anything else, I will try my best to during my military career to value the importance of culture and its relevance to accomplishing a multicultural mission that the Army may bring to my plate. 

Cadet Natalie Fahlberg: CTLT 

Being an army aviator has always been my goal.  This summer, I completed Cadet Troop Leader Training (CTLT) at Ft. Bliss following Advanced Camp training at Ft. Knox.  I originally was assigned to a transportation company in the 1st Armored Division.  With the unit, I was able to learn to drive a MAT-V (similar to a Humvee), and complete simulator training for humvee flips. Being with 47th Transportation Co. taught me a great deal about different Army vehicles and convoy operations.

While originally assigned to a transportation unit, I craved the opportunity to be with aviators. During my first week at Ft. Bliss, I took it upon myself to find an Aviation unit, and I acted as a platoon leader in the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion (AR) for the remainder of CTLT. Additionally, I had the opportunity to shadow a UH-60 officer in the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade.  Spending time with pilots and acting as a platoon leader – planning training and interacting with soldiers – reinforced my desire to branch aviation due to the quality of the individuals I met and the caliber of the aviator mission.

Being in El Paso, Texas was a fun and rewarding cultural experience as well. I am proficient in Spanish and was able to work on my language skills while on post and around town. It was also awesome being able to go to authentic Mexican restaurants and take in the Tex-Mex culture – I had too many tacos to count!

One of my favorite opportunities with the 204th MI Battalion was being able to actually fly.  On my 21st birthday we traveled to San Diego for on a day long mission.  It was an incredibly beautiful flight over the Grand Canyon and western part of the United States.  Overall, I loved the opportunity to talk with commissioned officers and warrant officers about their flight experiences. Additionally, the unit conducted an M-9 range, where I was able to learn to shoot an M-9 pistol and qualify on the weapon. 

Acting as a platoon leader during my time at CTLT reinforced my desire to be an Army Aviator. I learned many lessons about patience, resilience, and how to work with others. It was a life-changing experience from which I gained mentors that I know I will have throughout my Army career. The Army is a great team that I am excited to be a part of, and I am incredibly grateful to Princeton and its ROTC program for my CTLT experience. 

CDT Christian Kazanowski: US Army Airborne School 

During the last half of my summer break I had the privilege of attending the United States Army Airborne School. Located within Fort Benning in Northern Georgia, Airborne school consisted of three weeks of training that culminated in the completion of 5 static line parachute jumps out of a high-performance aircraft by over three hundred soldier, sailors, marines, and airmen. 

The training consisted of three weeks: ground week, tower week, and jump week. For the entirety of the first two weeks, myself and the other students in my company were tested on several apparatuses that were meant to simulate the act of properly exiting an aircraft and subsequently successfully landing on the ground below. While most of the practical exercises seemed trivial and monotonous, they made the entire process of exiting an aircraft like a natural reflex, so that when you were at the edge of an aircraft at over 1200 feet above the ground you would not freeze. Most of the structures that were used appeared to be the similar to the training equipment that was used since the inception of the school in the days preceding the United States’ entrance into WWII. From a zip line that helped practice the actions taken while falling to a swing that trained soldiers on their PLF’s, or parachute landing falls, each airborne student learned the fundamentals of military parachuting. By the end of tower week, we were all ready, excited, and anxious to finally complete the 5 jumps that would make us airborne qualified. 

On the first day of jump week, my entire company was woken up at approximately 2:45 AM. In a formation run, we made our way to the airstrip that was located one mile from the barracks. We then went through the mandatory pre-jump training that served as a refresher on everything we had learned over the previous two weeks, and after eating a quick early morning breakfast, made our way into the harness shed. While I’ve known that the Army is known to exemplify the phrase “hurry up and wait,” it was taken to a whole new level. Sitting on an extremely uncomfortable wooden bench, and harnessed up with both a 40-pound parachute rig, we were all forced to wait for upwards of 5 hours while the instructors inspected us and ensured weather conditions were favorable. 

Finally, after hours of waiting we boarded the C-17. Everyone quickly got to their seat on the aircraft, and soon after the plane took off. Within a few minutes the countdown had begun, starting with the standard cadences of “outboard personnel stand up,” “hook up,” “one minute,” and finally “30 seconds,” indicating that we were only moments from making our first military parachute jump. When the green light came the cadre instructed the first jumper to go, and one by one, each man followed suit and jumped from the C-17.  All of sudden I was thrown into a turbulence of wind, clenching the reserve parachute attached to my front side. Within a matter of seconds, my parachute deployed and I was approaching the earth at “safe” speed. Viewing the sprawling Georgia countryside from the height of 1000 feet was one of the most picturesque settings I had ever laid my eyes on, but before a minute had passed, I had executed a proper PLF and was safely on the ground. From there we boarded a bus back to the airstrip, and completed the next four jumps over the course of the week. 

The experience I had at Airborne school was one of a kind. Not only did I make multiple jumps from a high-performance military aircraft, but I also had the honor of going through the same training that produced countless paratroopers before me. This was exemplified in the fact that my class also had the unique distinction of graduating the first ever 4th generation paratrooper. A fellow student of mine had a father who a master-parachutist, a grandfather who jumped into Vietnam, and a great-grandfather who landed in Normandy. In all, the training at airborne school served as a valuable way to broaden my military training, and to increase my confidence for conquering other feats.

Cadet Samuel Rob: CTLT

From June 14th to August 4th I completed seven weeks of Army training, first completing USACC’s month-long Cadet Leadership Course (CLC) at Fort Knox, Kentucky and then Cadet Troop Leader Training (CTLT) at Fort Polk, Louisiana with the 573rd Clearance Company, 46th ENG BAT “Steel Spike.”  

CLC serves as the crucible of AROTC training for all cadets across the nation, and while it was a mentally and physically demanding course, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. While the course tested basic officer competencies such as ruck marching, rifle marksmanship, land navigation, call for fires, and tactical combat casualty care, the leadership training exercises marked the watershed of my summer. Over a span of twenty days, I, along with 39 other cadets from across the country, of every race, religion, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background, conducted platoon-level operations in the dense deciduous woods of southern Kentucky. Each day we were assigned two platoon missions, such as ambushes and raids, in which we had to maneuver against other platoons. Cadets would rotate in and out of different leadership positions in the platoon between every mission, forcing us to come together to build effective teams that played to our strengths despite constantly changing leadership. Despite humping 60 pound rucksacks through soaking rainstorms that drenched our gear, rampant poison ivy, poisonous snakes and spiders and sweltering summer heat, training never stopped.

Despite the trials that sometimes seems like biblical plagues, we benefited from the immense knowledge of field craft and infantry tactics of MSG Viene, our master trainer who spent his entire 17-year Army career with the elite 3rd Ranger Battalion. While MSG’s Viene’s expectations increased the tempo and audacity of our training, it was his leadership that made the experience so singular.

After a demanding month in the field, I then completed three weeks of CTLT at Fort Polk, where I shadowed Second Lieutenant Peron in the 573rd. Although I had grown up on Army Posts as the son of two officers, this was my first exposure to being integrated into an active duty unit. As part of my training I lived in the unit’s barracks along with a handful of other ROTC cadets and West Pointers. I would begin every day conducting PT with the platoon and then help lead the unit through their “range density” period, planning and executing ranges on all basic weapons systems in preparation for their upcoming live squad fires exercises. We qualified the entire company on the M4 rifle and M320 grenade launcher, the 249 SAW and 240B machine gun as well as .50 cal machine gun in both day and night fires over the short span of three weeks. It was humbling to work with soldiers who would spend the entire day at the range, from 0500 to 0200, in the oppressing Louisiana humidity and then wake up the next day and be back at work ready to train at 0900. I also was able to experience other branches, spending a day flying in a UH60 Blackhawk with the 5th Aviation BAT, as well as training with a Cavalry squadron in the 3rd Brigade of the 10th MTN as they prepared to deploy to Mosul. I also spent time with the Judge Advocate General office (the legal representative in the Army) and Fort Polk’s environmental office to learn more about how the Army takes care of its soldiers and our environment. It wasn’t all work; I got some great workouts in the post gym and explored Cajun food and culture in New Orleans as well as visited a sugar plantation.

Cadet Theodore Waldron: CTLT 
This summer, I spent just shy of a month of CTLT, Cadet Troop Leader Training, in Vilseck, Germany, with “2CR”, the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. 

CTLT is essentially an Army internship; you are assigned to an active duty lieutenant, and follow them around for a few weeks, doing their job wherever possible and learning many of the small details of military life that it is difficult to cover in our classrooms on campus, whether it’s how to talk to junior enlisted personnel to how to keep accountability of equipment, or how to solve problems such as resourcing training materials. I split my time between two lieutenants; I spent the first half of my time with the infantry, and the remainder of my time with EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). This is one of the best things about CTLT – you are given the opportunity to move around and explore different units, which is important because it means you not only have the chance to get some exposure to the career field you hope to join yourself, but also to the other career fields that comprise the Army, giving you a better sense of how the Army fits together as a whole, whether it’s spending a day with the mechanics who keep your vehicles on the road, or with the intelligence personnel who provide you with crucial information to help plan missions.

My time with EOD left the most lasting impression on me. The mission of EOD is to render-safe all explosive threats. This spans everything from battlefield clean-up (such as removing unexploded tank shells from destroyed tanks) to defusing IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). They also have a counter-narcotics mission, because drug labs often contain explosive threats. EOD personnel also assist with homeland security, education, and VIP protection details – one of the bomb techs I met had just returned from securing the President at the G7 Summit. The 702nd Ordnance Company (EOD) was very welcoming. On my first day, I got to go out on a response with them. Somebody had found a case of 120mm mortar shells by the side of the road, and these needed to be disposed of safely. We loaded into a pickup truck, tested the explosives to make sure they were stable enough for transport, then drove to a demolitions range, prepared them for disposal, then placed C4 on them and detonated it. Some other memorable experiences included helping to solder a circuit for a very tricky and difficult to defuse IED (Improvised Explosive Device), training with the robot they use to defuse bombs from a distance, and our final exercise, a multi-ordnance disposal which required the identification, sorting, and disposal of over 150 different pieces of ordnance. 

Outside of training, I got to spend our four-day weekend visiting Berlin and Munich. All in all, it was a fantastic experience.