A weekend in the woods with the UVM ROTC program


Among all of the longboards, ÒEat More KaleÓ stickers and Birkenstock shoes that a person sees on a typical walk through the UVM campus, a camouflaged uniform tends to stick out.

For around 50 students in the University of Vermont Reserve Officer Training Corp program, the green and tan uniforms worn by cadets are yet another pile of clothes for laundry day.

UVM is just one part of the larger Green Mountain Battalion, which includes nearby schools SUNY Plattsburgh, Saint MichaelÕs College, Middlebury College, Castleton Stage College and Champlain College.

The ROTC program at UVM officially began in 1916 with the passing of the National Defense Act. The program was compulsory for all male students until 1964, but is now a voluntary program open to both male and female undergraduates.

ROTC is meant to prepare future officers for service in the United States Military. For cadets on scholarships, that means signing a contract as a first-year or sophomore that incurs an 8-year service obligation.

The decision to contract is a significant commitment, and Òa huge milestone in a cadetÕs life,Ó senior John Hart said.

Despite this commitment, the goals of a cadet are not really much different than those of a typical undergraduate.

ÒAll college students are pursuing academic excellence, so in this regard, ROTC students are not really much different than all of the other great students here at UVM,Ó Lieutenant Colonel Tim Knoth, professor of Military Science at UVM, said. ÒAcademic excellence is our number one priority!Ó

Hart agrees that a cadetÕs life isnÕt dramatically different than a non-ROTC undergraduate: ÒWe stay up late, do homework, go to parties, etc., just like everyone else. We just sleep a little less than the rest of you [laughs].Ó

Two of the biggest in-school commitments every cadet has are the annual weekend-long Fall and Spring FTXs, or Field Training Exercises.

The Cynic joined the Green Mountain Battalion on their latest Fall FTX to gain a better picture of what life as a ROTC cadet at UVM is really like.

As a whole, the experience is Òoriented upon developing the skills and attributes that we most desire in our future Second Lieutenants, including mental toughness, adaptability, sound judgment, physical fitness, and most importantly, strong moral character,Ó LTC Knoth said.

This yearÕs iteration consisted of two days and one night at the nearby Camp Ethan Allen Training Site.

Beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 2 a.m., the first day was a test in endurance, if nothing else.

The morning began with the distribution of MREs – or Meal, Ready to Eat Ð with the cadets giddily discussing which meal they received and offering trades Ð much like a scene from a school cafeteria.

The younger cadets then crowded into a bus while the seniors took their own cars ahead of the rest of the group to set up the day to come.

The morning was highlighted by medical training, which included a Blackhawk helicopter making a dramatic entrance to showcase what to do in a potential medical evacuation.

The rest of the day consisted of day and night land navigation, or orienteering with a map and compass.

The sophomores and first-years were grouped together, while the juniors were instructed to complete the course individually.

The course is one of the hardest in the nation, and is used by the Army Mountain Warfare School for training.

The exercise is a vital skill, but more than that itÕs Òan incredible head game,Ó Hart said. ÒWhen things go poorly itÕs a great test of resiliency and mental agility.Ó

After a 5 a.m. wake-up call, the cadets separated into groups depending on their class.

The first-years and sophomores spent the day receiving introductory rifle training with M16A2s and learning how to rappel with a rope-tied harness, while the juniors spent the day in class learning from senior cadets and officers.

At the days end, LTC Knoth thanked the officers involved in planning and executing the event, and gave an extensive summary of everything gained by the cadets from the weekend of training.

He was also quick to credit the senior cadet class, responsible for planning the event, for their hard work and dedication.

The successful weekend and clear weather moved more than one cadet to declare this yearÕs FTX Òthe best IÕve been on.Ó

First-year Robert Miller was left inspired by the experience. ÒI definitely feel more like a soldier.Ó