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Four Years at the Mount - Junior Year

Life in the Woods

Julia Mulqueen

(Nov, 2010) I have had what some may call an unusual childhood. My father is in the Army, so my life so far has consisted largely of moving from state to state or country to country. As a direct consequence of my dad’s chosen profession, both of my brothers and I have ended up in the Army in some capacity. My oldest brother is a military police officer, and my other brother is a Blackhawk pilot. I myself am currently in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or ROTC and am training to become an officer while also attending college. I am absolutely thrilled that I was accepted into ROTC and have been enjoying the program from my first involvement in it as a freshman just two years ago. It has offered me countless opportunities to learn and grow as a young college student.

One of the many ways that we as cadets are taught is through weekend Field Training Exercises or FTXs. These are two or three day excursions in which our entire battalion joins together in order to receive training through hands-on experience. In fact, we recently attended one of these FTXs. I certainly welcome them as they provide an exceptional break to my normal weekend routine of sleeping.

The weekend really begins the week before the FTX with a detailed packing list. Every single item that we must bring with us is written down on a list and that list trickles down to us straight from our cadet battalion commander. Pre-combat checks and inspections are then held in order to make sure each person has all of the equipment on the packing list. I really enjoy these checks. They make me feel like a spy about to go out on a top-secret mission instead of some 20-year-old cadet who is terrified of stinkbugs.

Once the inspections are complete, we are ready to begin training. Our recent FTX began on Friday right after our classes were over. We "rucked up," which consisted of tossing our 55 pound backpacks onto our backs, and prepared to endure a tiring, but very rewarding weekend. For the freshmen and sophomores, the weekend is about introducing them to the events in which they will be tested when they go through Warrior Forge after their junior year. Warrior Forge is a course over the summer that all rising seniors must attend before they can be commissioned as officers in the United States Army.

For the juniors, however, the weekend is a tool to assess their ability to complete certain tasks properly. One of these tasks is land navigation, and upon our arrival at the base on Friday, we were immediately tested on our skill in reading a map, plotting points, and then accurately locating them. There was a slight twist at this past FTX, though. We were required to find the points in complete and utter darkness. Many of the points were unfortunately located in woods quite comparable to those in the movie "The Blair Witch Project," which made finding them a frightful task.

Once we completed the land navigation course and each of us had been carefully accounted for, we were tasked with setting up sleeping quarters for ourselves. My humble abode, although lacking interior plumbing, was quite nice. It consisted of my poncho slung over a tree branch for some shelter, my 3-piece sleeping bag made for -30 degree weather, and of course my stuffed giraffe affectionately known as Pete. We were each given a time frame for waking up and patrolling during the night.

A little before the sun rose, we were awoken with steaming hot coffee and fresh donuts. Well, change the coffee to canteen water and the donuts to MREs. MRE stands for "Meal Ready to Eat." The meal consists of an entrée, such as barbeque pork ribs, crackers, and other snacks, as well as a dessert. Quite frankly, I think they are delicious for meals that come in a little package, and finding out which dessert has been included in my MRE is always a fun surprise.

After we had all finished our breakfasts, we began Squad Tactical Exercises or STX Lanes. These are drills that involve receiving a mission such as knocking out a bunker and then executing said mission. Much of what we as juniors will be tested on when we attend Warrior Forge this summer will have to do with STX Lanes. Our ability to receive a mission, disseminate information, and then coordinate and perform tasks reveals our ingenuity, skill level, and leadership capability. It is certainly nerve-racking knowing that our every move is assessed by seniors, but it is ultimately rewarding to see how far we have come over the course of just a few short years.

To wrap up the FTX, we had classes held by the seniors on everything from ticks to tourniquets, and then just as quickly as the FTX had started, it was over. We piled into vans and drove back to the Mount. It certainly was an eventful weekend, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to partake in it.

If someone had asked me just a few years ago what I would be doing in college and how I would be spending my weekends, I certainly would not have thought to answer them with "ROTC" and "sleeping in a tent." I am so thankful that those two activities have been included in my college experience, though. It is incredible to think about the progress that we as cadets have made both individually and collectively, as well as the numerous challenges that we have been trained to overcome. ROTC has made me personally a better student, a better daughter, and a better sister. I can’t think of my life without it.

Read other articles by Julia Mulqueen