ROTC holds fall training event

A shooting demonstration is given.
A shooting demonstration is given at Camp Ethan Allen. OLIVER POMAZI/The Vermont Cynic


“This ain’t ‘Call of Duty’” said Capt. Timothy Martin, standing in front of a group of UVM Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets as he held an M16A2, the standard-issue U.S. army rifle.

During the weekend of Sept. 26, UVM ROTC students attended their first fall training event for cadets at Fort Ethan Allen in Jericho, Vermont.

For two days, students familiarized themselves with shooting weapons, land navigation, squad tactics and more.

Cadets were also given lessons in rappelling from the highest training cliff in the world, a 200-foot rock face located at the American Army Mountain Warfare School, based at Fort Ethan Allen.

“This is probably the coolest thing we get to do,” said military police officer Sarah Pitman, who graduated from UVM and ROTC last year.

Now, she works as a recruiter and supervised the training.

The ROTC gave the Cynic the opportunity to tag along and participate in their two-day training.

After arriving at Fort Ethan Allen, we walked down to the firing range to join an ROTC squad in weapons familiarization training.

Once we were out on the open range, we were given protective eye glasses, ear plugs, paper targets, an M16 and loaded 5-round and 20-round magazines.

“Insert your magazine into your weapons,” Martin said. “That’s the sound of freedom,” he joked. Everyone laughed, and loaded up.

“Now, all of you are to release the bolt catch. That’s the sound of justice” he said.

“Now, each of you are to set your weapon from safe to semi auto, and send all of your freedom down range,” he said.

Locked and loaded, we entered the prone position with our magazine resting on the ground.

With a tiny black target in our sights, we squeezed the triggers slowly and shot an M16 for the first time.

A ROTC student’s patches are displayed.
A ROTC student’s patches are displayed. OLIVER POMAZI/The Vermont Cynic

For some first-year cadets, this was also their first time firing a weapon.

Shooting an M16 was a novel experience for first-year cadet Henry Jensen.

He said he shot pistols before, but never an M16. “I loved the feel of using a real U.S. Army weapon,” Jensen said.

“I loved shooting the M16. Everyone was asking me if I was scared to shoot a gun for the first time, but I was actually excited. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” first-year Madison Slater said, while opening an Meal Ready to Eat, also known as an MRE.

Bright and early the next morning, Sept. 27, we headed back to Jericho to participate in day two of training: rappelling.

With a different squad, we scaled the rocky side the mountains, overlooking the yellowing horizon and Mt. Mansfield. After we traversed the side, we reached the platform, where we waited for about an hour to rappel down the 200 foot cliff.

For us, and for many of the first-years, descending down the first cliff required some extra bravery.

“You feel pretty frantic at the very top of the cliff,” said first-year Caroline Olmer. “But I’m glad I did it, it’s fun after the first few steps,” Olmer said.

The challenges build relationships, Pitman said.

“But at the end of the day, you look back on it and say ‘wow, that was awesome,” she said. “I can’t wait to do it again.”

Given the amount of time the cadets must spend together, a positive sense of community is essential for them to be able to work together.

During their time at UVM, cadets wake up three times per week for physical training at 6 a.m., and take ROTC classes every Wednesday.

Many choose to live together in the ROTC suites in the Living/Learning complex, and study together when they’re not training.

“This is my time at UVM,” junior Travis Deforge said. He enlisted in a cryptological linguistics program in high school, and obtained an ROTC scholarship learning Chinese at UVM. He considers his fellow cadets the best friends he has ever made and can’t imagine life without the ROTC.

Despite the full scholarship to UVM, amongst countless other benefits ROTC cadets receive, cadets cite a love for America as their primary reason for enlisting.

ROTC cadets strategize during a team-building exercise during the first day of training at Fort Ethan Allen in Jericho, Vt. Sept. 26. During the weekend of training, students gained skills with weapons, squad tactics and more.
ROTC cadets strategize during a team-building exercise during the first day of training at Fort Ethan Allen in Jericho, Vt. Sept. 26. During the weekend of training, students gained skills with weapons, squad tactics and more. OLIVER POMAZI/The Vermont Cynic

“I joined ROTC because I love my country,” first year cadet Henry Jensen said while dining on a bag of lithium-heated chicken stew.

First-years Kurt Ollestad and Slater agreed.

“ROTC is like one big brotherhood,” Ollestad said. “Everyone is always together and accepting of everyone else, you know that everyone here is going to look out for you.”

“It’s a very close knit community, people are always there for you and ROTC creates the biggest bonds and sense of community,” Jensen said. “It feels great to be a part of something.”