[VIDEO] Under fire: Cadets prepare for career-determining missions


UK cadets Josh Lynch and Green at the UK Army ROTC’s Field Training Exercises on Saturday, April 17, 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

ARTEMUS, Ky. – Wind sweeps through the thickly wooded hills, muffling the crunch of branches under a squad of combat boots carefully creeping to the objective of their mission. An eerie quiet falls over the empty countryside as the camouflage-clad soldiers raise their guns to the top of a bunker, housing unfriendly forces in Arabian garb.

At the single-hand motion of the platoon leader, the quiet breaks. After seven minutes of machine gun booms and constant paint ball splattering, the mission is complete and the forces are taken hostage.

For the Army ROTC cadets at UK, these types of drills are a part of their biannual field training exercises meant to prepare them for life after college. The event is especially important to the 27 cadets in their third year of ROTC, MS 3’s, who receive their final training before being evaluated at a summer course. This course, called LDAC, will essentially determine the cadets’ careers upon graduation, said Captain Joey Orr.

“This is our last chance to really train them before LDAC, and this training is imperative to their success,” Orr said.

The ROTC students arrived at Artemus Training Base on Friday morning, and the MS 3’s immediately broke off from the rest, taking on a higher stress level of activity than the other cadets.

They began by doing day and nighttime land navigation on their own, going out on quests to find different points based on their ability to read a terrain map and follow it without any light to guide their way. They slept outside in the rain while on patrol as the other cadets slept soundly in barracks.

On Saturday the cadets had to perform as a team by executing various paintball missions called lanes. They took their cooperative and leadership skills to the next level by mixing in with cadets from the University of Louisville.

“It was mission after mission after mission,” said MS 3 Mary Awoniyi.  “We had to eat on the fly, and when you were tired you had to suck it up because you knew your leadership would need you to be really motivated so you could get your mission done. It was tough to keep a smile on your face and just keep going.”

MS 3 Dakota Lawler shared Awoniyi’s sentiments about the hardships of the missions.

“This has been very difficult but the training we receive here is priceless and has prepared us for this summer at LDAC,” Lawler said.

Lt. Colonel Cummins of the UK ROTC said the weekend was a great way to gauge the cadet’s education thus far in their careers.

“This really forces them to do critical thinking and it is a great replica of what they will soon see as young leaders in the Army,” Cummins said.

After three days living outdoors, strangers became comrades and painfully constructive criticism became lessons which­­­­­­­ will stick with the cadets as they continue in their careers to defend their country.

A cadence echoes across the hills on Sunday, falling in time with the steps of the tired cadets making their way back to the barracks to clean up and head out. Smiles and laughs appear where stress lines fell around their eyes just hours before as they head back to fall in step with their fellow Cats.