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Four Years at the Mount - Senior Year

Senior Year

Situational Tactical Exercises

Julia Mulqueen

(3/2012) For the past three years, the Mount has without fail offered us her land for a Saturday ROTC field exercise in the springtime. Our training on these days consists of STX lanes. STX lanes are Situational Tactical Exercises. In ROTC, we run through these lanes at the squad level. It is a way for senior cadets to evaluate junior cadets as they prepare for their leadership camp in the summer. Last year for the Saturday field exercise, myself and the 20 other juniors in my class were to lead STX lanes.

Field exercises like these are my favorite part of ROTC. We are allowed the opportunity to move from the classroom into the field in order to better learn. We receive hands on training and detailed evaluations of our leadership. This is how we best learn where we need to improve. To top this off, we get to spend the day with our ROTC buddies building bonds that will last a lifetime. Itís a complete package!

Our Saturday training day last year was a beautiful one. The sun was shining; the air was crisp. Myself and the other cadets met at Memorial Gym and then marched over to the east side of campus for our training. Our training officially began, as always, with a battalion formation. The battalion commander at the time, a senior from McDaniel, gave us a morning pep-talk and encouraged us to do our best on the STX lanes. Then we broke up into our squads.

STX lanes begin with the evaluator reading an Operation Order-OPORD for short-to the cadet who is leading the squad. This cadet, as the squad leader, must convert the platoon level OPORD to a squad level OPORD. He or she must use the information given in the OPORD to develop a plan to properly execute the mission. The mission could be anything from setting up an ambush alongside a road to knocking out a bunker.

The first cadet to lead a STX lane in our squad was Cadet Sheriff. He set about preparing his OPORD. He then briefed it to us, and we readied ourselves to execute the mission. After we ran through the lane, the senior evaluating Cadet Sheriff pulled him aside and immediately counseled him on his evaluation. This is the most important part of the STX lane; it is time for the evaluator to give the cadet who led the lane direct feedback.

One by one, the juniors followed the same pattern as Cadet Sheriff. Each of us received a mission and led the squad through the lane. Around midday, the sun began to duck behind a few ominous clouds in the darkening sky, and the rain began. The spring gifted us with a beautifully short, but still heavy, rain shower. Fortunately, the day remained warm. The rainfall turned the dirt that we had been running lanes on into thick, sloppy mud. Muddy training might sound awful at first, but there is nothing more motivating than a little grime on your boots during STX lanes.

Soon the rain shower broke, and we arrived at the start of our last lane. Everyone except Cadet Davis had gone. He stepped up to receive the OPORD. He quickly prepared it and converted it from platoon level to squad level. Cadet Davis briefed his plan to the squad, and we jumped into our last mission of the day. We moved stealthily through the trees looking for signs of the enemy. Our mission was to knock out a bunker that lay deep in the woods.

As we got closer to our target, we approached a small stream with flowing water and muddy banks from the recent rainstorm. Cadet Sheriff was the first to cross it. Midway through his crossing he stopped. He stooped down for a second, then straightened up and turned around. He had the cheesiest grin on his face. His smiled stretched from ear to ear. On each check, he had smeared mud on his face. That was why he had stopped so suddenly. His smile and his idea rubbed off on the rest of us. One by one, we each stooped down in the river so we could smear some mud on our faces, too. It was the simplest, smallest thing, but it is my favorite memory of my time at the Mount. In that moment, we were truly a team. In that moment, we were building friendships that will last our entire lives. I cannot explain the joy that filled my heart when we finished that mission and gazed at each otherís faces, covered in mud and trying (unsuccessfully) to look tough. No matter where I go or what I do in life, I will never forget my time at the Mount spent running STX lanes with muddy faces.

Read other articles by Julia Mulqueen