everything you always wanted to know about rotc but were afraid to ask
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About ROTC but Were Afraid to Ask
by Kaying Lee


October 4, 1998

My weekend of FTX (field training exercise) was so much fun, so difficult, so painful, so little
sleep.  Let me start with a little intro of my weekend.  My battalion left Madison on Fri at 1200
and got back at 1600 on Sun.  I left Madison with a pretty much intact healthy body and came back
with a very BRUISED body. 

This weekend I learned a lot about leadership and how much the chain of command works.  Before in
JROTC, I never thought much about the chain of command because I could always go to Sgt. Mindach.
Now, I fully realize how much trouble you can get into if you fail to go through the chain of
command.  I also realize all those 'bullshit' that I thought the 1SG used to pull on us (cadets)
were really unfair and stupid were actually very helpful.  It is very interesting how much more I
know about the company formation and the duties of each position because of JROTC.  Here's a
thought, you never know how much you can do until you try it.  That's why I joined ROTC.  

On Friday, I had to miss my 1320 Psychology class because we were leaving at 1230.  Of course,
since formation is at 1230, this means that everyone has to be at the building at 1200.  I had to
walk 20 mins with my rucksack and my LBE and my kevlar in my BDU.  Of course, this is already a lot
lighter than carrying my duffel bag which I already had at the building.  For the FTX, in order for
them to prepare the MS3 for the advance camp, we totally had to overpack.  Seeing how much stuff I
have, you would think that I was going to be gone for a month.  

Blah...blah...blah...we get to the building and got our weapons issued.  Umm....M-16s.  I never
thought that I would get to hold a real weapon.  Okay, our FTX is held with the UW-Whitewater
battalion.  So, the other battalion arrived and we get ready to load the bus.  Here's the hitch,
our transportation is a blue school bus.  Everyone (all 30+ cadets) had to sit two to a seat with
our rucksacks on our lap.  We had no ROOM.  I later found out that this is going to be how we
travel throughout the entire weekend; this contributed to my very bruised thights.  Umm...the metal
part of the rucksack bouncing on my legs is not that comfortable. 

We got to Fort McCoy and unload and did a lot of boring stuff (classes on what's going to going on
tomorrow).  The only thing that I found out that night was that MRE (made ready to eat - military
food packs) are VERY disgusting.  That night, we had 20 mins to eat.  I thought I was rather rushed
since I didn't even have time to use my heat pack.  Later, throughout the next day, I would realize
that 20min is a lot of time for eating.  I also discovered that if anyone lose their weapon...they
are DEAD!  If anyone drops their weapon, everyone has to drop and do 20 push-ups with them.
Throughout the weekend, I have never had to do so many push-ups (in BDUs only, in BDU and rutsack,
in BDU and LBE); this contributes to the pain in my arms right now.  Oh yeah, on Friday night, it
is traditional for the MS-4 (seniors) to haze the MS-3 ( juniors).  Thus, even though lights out
was at 2100, I didn't get to sleep until 2200.  By then, it was almost time to get up again for
fire watch (! guar ding the weapons) at 2230.  

Wake up was at 0400 on Saturday.  That was really bad that my battle buddy (who was a 3 and should
have known better since she was at boot camp for 6 months) and I decided to wake up at 0400.  We
had no time to pack at all.  We were almost late to formation!  Knowing this is military time, I
should have had woken up at 0330 to pack.  I also found out that showering is bad and a waste of
time!!!!  This is going to be the most fun and the hardest day yet!  

The best meal of the day was breakfast (a non MRE hot food that we ate indoor).  I didn't
appreciate that hot meal at 0515 in the morning.  Big mistake.  Our next stop was at the range
(remember that we are all riding with our rucksacks and weapon on a nasty blue school bus), here,
we spend 3+ hours firing the M-16.  We were only allow to go on semi and the backfire wasn't that
bad once you got used to it.  I really messed up on my first qualifying test.  They gave us 2 mins
to fire 20 rounds.  Well, I was used to the 20 mins given at the rifle competitions that I
misjudged the time and didn't get to fire all the rounds.  The second time, i made sure that I
fired all the rounds.  Needed to improve on aiming.  I believe we did MANY MANY more push-ups there
at the range.  Firing a M-16 was one of the best!!!!

Next (after another grudging bus ride), we arrived at the land navigation course/ field.  Here, we
had 10 mins to shove our MRE down.  Here is where I started to get sick because the food was too
harsh and I was shoving it down too fast.  We had 3 hours to find 5 points on a map.  They gave us
grid coordinates and off we go.  This was really fun!  I mean, we didn't have to wear the ruts!
Finally, I have a load off my back!!!!  I was paired up with a MS-3, and he taught me a lot about
land nav.  I found out that using my compass and pace count was a lot more accurate than cheating
and following the roads.  We missed our first point because we were mislead by a intersection that
was not on the map.  Three hours of walking, I never thought I would walk so much.  During the last
part of the three hours, I finally threw up (after feeling sick for the whole day after lunch).  I
did feel better after throwing up...all was not a lost.  I missed my civilian clothes.  Before each
exerc! ise,  we had a bunch of classes (given by the MS-4).  So, after land nav, it was 1830.
Considering that I have been up since 0400, it had been a long DAY.  Of course, our day wasn't over
yet!  

Here was when I learned about the importance of chain of command and leadership and teamwork.  It
was the time to set up out tents for the night.  I told my squad leader that I had threw up.  Well,
he relay the message to his chain of command, and everyone made sure that I feel alright (and made
sure that I haven't told the MS-4).  I didn't think sleeping outdoor would be bad.  Was I ever
WRONG!  For dinner, we had 5 mins.  All this rushing is suppose to prepare us for the Advance Camp
that the MS-3 have to go to this summer.  This time, I was smart!  I only ate a small part of my
MRE and put the rest aside for later.  Of course, this has to be the meal that our cadet BC
reprimanding us on not finishing all of our food.  Good thing this other MS-3 wanted extra food.  

After dinner was land nav (night), I thought that I have grasped the day land nav idea.  I think
that I can go find the points now.  However, the night land nav was really hard.  It was pitch
black outside and we had to go through the woods to find our points.  Actually, they recommended us
to follow the roads (which would had been a good idea except many of the 'roads' were just sand and
made it really hard to walk on....just imagine walking on the beach for 3-4 miles).  Even thought I
threw up and felt better, I feel really nauseous whenever I smell a MRE (it really didn't matter
what favor they were because MRE all smell the same to me).  We had 2 hours to find 3 points.  Once
again, we were buddy teamed.  Good thing!  Because, by then, I felt so sick that could barely walk
(and these cadets are all high speed and they speed walk).

By 2200, we got back to our site.  If any of you were out on Saturday night, you know how cold it
was.  Blah...blah...blah...more of the formation and information crap.  Finally, it was time for
lights out at 2300.  My battle buddy decided that since we had such a hard time packing yesterday,
we weren't going to get our sleeping bags out.  Oooo...big mistake!  I have never been so cold in
my life.  I couldn't sleep at all because I was so cold.  Oh yeah, it didn't help that we had to
sleep with our M-16 that night.  We had to wrap the M-16 around our legs so the MS-4 won't try to
take it away from us in the middle of the night.  I had fire watch (weapon watch with weapons that
night) at 0200.  Oooo....fun.  Actually, that was kind of good because it gave me an excuse to go
walk around and get warm.  I was losing feelings in my legs and my toes.  My body was alright
because I had my field jacket on.  

I have never had look so forward to the sun getting up.  Doing stuff would keep me warm...that was
all I knew.  Oh!  Everyone woke up before 0430 and it was pitch black outside.  It was really
difficult taking down the site when it was all black.  However, it was another hot, non-MRE
breakfast!  Sunday was the fun day!  We had more classes and got to go rappel off a 30+ foot tower!
That was awesome!  They even opened the 60 foot tower and let people rappel off!  That was the
bomb.  On the way back, the MS-4 were nicer and let us stop at McDee (I have never LOVE the arch so
much in my life).  

We got back to Madison at 1300.  However, we had to stay and clean the M-16s out; so, it was after
1600 before we could go.  Tomorrow, it will be 0600 for cleaning the weapons.    

SO, that was my weekend.    Overall, my ankles are all bruised plus I twisted the left ankle a
couple of times during the night land nav (I always am buddied up with some really tall guy or some
really fast guy).  my thighs are all bruised from the rutsacks, my shoulders are all bruised from
everything, I just hurt.  At least there is no PT tomorrow.  I hope that everyone have had a great
weekend...and learned a lot like me.  I found out that you eat, drink, sleep, go to bathroom
whenever you have time (rather or not you want or need to) because you may not have time later on.
Umm...20 mins bathroom break for 29 cadets with only on available potty around.  You would not want
to be late to anything!!!  Or else, everyone has to DROP and do twenty.  Never say/ whine that you
are cold either, or you may make everyone drop until everyone conlapse. 
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