Saturday Morning I found myself wondering what I had volunteered
for as I sat on a bus that was bouncing its way to Fort McCoy. Myself and about
50 other students had signed up for a one credit course, sponsored by ROTC,
called Joint Field Training Exercise.
Upon arrival we stood in line in squads we had been divided into,
shivering in the early morning frost. We waited for the uniforms to stop
running around and tell us what we were going to be doing.
The four squads were soon sent in different directions to begin
the day’s activities. Each event was led by a different cadet from ROTC. Our
first activity was the Confidence Course and the Conditioning Course, which
were basically challenging obstacle courses.
The courses involved a lot of climbing, swinging, jumping, and
balancing; and for me at least, it also involved a lot of bruises and sore
muscles. One challenge, where you had to climb about 12 feet up a rope and then
shimmy across a pole, got the better of me. I lost all my strength half way
across. Clinging upside down to the pole, arms shaking and legs giving out I
knew I was done for. My hand slipped a moment before I got my legs underneath
me and down I fell, clocking my spotter in the head on the way down. I picked
myself up, apologized to my now probably equally bruised spotter, brushed the
dirt off and moved on to the next thing. That was first of six times I would
face plant in the dirt that day.
For lunch we were allowed the treat of MRE’s. In case you have
never had the pleasure of eating one, allow me to describe them. They consist
of food that has been vacuum packed into plastic bags which you attempt to heat
using chemicals, water, and more plastic bags. I opted to eat mine cold.
After lunch we went to an indoor, electronic firing range where we
fired computerized M-16s. The weapons felt very real, even had a little kick to
them when you fired. We played with these for an hour before they took us to
the paintball field.
After being briefed in a few simple assault tactics they put us
into teams, armed us with paintball guns, and turned us lose in a patch of
woods about the size of a football field. My tactic of hiding in the shrubs and
taking potshots seemed to work well. I survived until the middle of the third
and last round before being shot in the side.
By this point in the day my arms were numb with tired. But there
was one more event to come: repelling. This was by far the best part of the
day. We were shown how to tie a Swiss seat, the harness you sit in while
repelling, and taken to the “Bunny-wall” where we got a feel for how the ropes
Next came the 34 foot high tower. Taking that first step backward
off of a tower is one of the scariest feelings I have ever experienced; until
we got the 54 foot tower that is.
From the higher tower they sent us down just dangling off a rope
with no board to brace our feet against. Terrifying.
It’s the kind of experience that you want to talk yourself out of but know
you’ll kick yourself later for not doing if you chicken out. Repelling for the
first time gives you an amazing rush and is most likely something you will
remember for the rest of your life.
All told it was a fantastic day that left me completely exhausted
and hoping I get the chance to do it all over again sometime. On the bus ride
home, as I nursed sore muscles and bruised legs, I couldn’t help but think of
the soldiers who work even harder out in the field, day in and day out. No
amount of exhaustion or sore muscles means they get a break. I now have even
more respect for what our military does and would like to take this last line
to say thank you to anyone who has served this country.