ROTC Cadets participate in battle drill

Mariah Hicks

While others might have been huddled under the covers Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 7 a.m., Kent State’s Army ROTC cadets were lying in the snow.

The swift rumble of tires on asphalt filled the backstreet while the faint hush of a trainer’s voice expanded through the huddled team, who listened to what they were about to experience.  

“I can’t feel my fingers,” one cadet said as she rushed to her car to quickly warm up.

Cadets gathered on the snowy field of Allerton Sports Complex for Battle Drill No. 1, also known as React to Contact — a mock situation of what to do in an attack from the enemy.

The group huddled to watch as Cadet Avery Millis, a training senior, made a terrain model in the snow with a stick, a tactic used to provide a visual of the environment they were in and show how the squads would carry out the mission. 

“So you had Cadet Millis, he set it (the terrain model) up to kind of teach them, to show them where there’s a little bit of water, where there might be a hill, where there might be a depression; just things to orient themselves. So it’s kind of incorporating a little land navigation,” Cadet Alexandra Reich, a fashion merchandising major and senior, said.

Cadets split into five squads and took their positions to the ground with their guns in hand. They covered the field doing 360 security, keeping an eye on the area while their leaders — platoon leader, platoon sergeant, and squad leaders — convened in the middle to devise a plan to what they would have to react to, Reich said.

The React to Contact drill teaches platoons and squads how to respond to fire from the enemy. Cadets learn how to maneuver and lay down fire in a mock situation and leaders make decisions, so orders can be given to the squads quickly.

“It means we’re moving, and when the enemy starts firing at us it’s how we will react to their fires,” Gia Faetanini, an early childhood education major and senior cadet, said. “Different things that they can consider is where the enemy will attack them and possible terrain that the enemy could use to their advantage.”

Once a plan was made, the mock drill quickly began to feel like a more serious situation.

Now in full focus, cadets fell into the woods. Twigs snapped under their boots as they rushed to take cover behind trees.

Some cadets were encouraged by Faetanini to find better coverage so that they would be out of sight. The howling wind carried the voices of the leaders instructing the squads on the tasks they needed to carry out.

“It’s a pretty good feel, because you actually get to see this being done live. It’s a great training exercise for people that have not ever done this before,” Zeke Misko, a public health major and junior cadet, said. “It definitely puts everything kind of into perspective outside of just talking about it in theory. It’s all about training and it’s all about the learning experience.”

“The good thing about doing this when we’re training them is that mistakes will be made and it’s great for them to learn from mistakes,” Faetanini said. “That’s what we expect to happen today, which is why we’re doing this in a training environment where it’ll be a little bit slower and all of us training seniors can help them with the mistakes that they made to learn what they did wrong.”

React to Contact prepares the junior cadets, also known as MS IIIs, for summer training where their abilities will be evaluated.

Their ability to work as a team is one that stands crucial.

“The Army is all about teamwork. That’s a motto that we have is ‘One Team, One Fight’ so it’s very important for people to be able to work as a team,” Steven Westlake, an applied engineering major and senior cadet, said.

One of the biggest risks of not working together as a team can result in an unsuccessful mission.

“Everybody has to work together and know what’s going on in order for the unit to work cohesively and defeat the enemy. So it’s really important that they all work together, and everybody knows what their part is,” Faetanini said.

Cadets stuck with their squads and kept their ears open for instruction from their leaders.

“You have to be willing to be a follower,” Reich said. “… A good leader is a follower and a leader, someone that can listen and take advice and take criticism, which is something that everybody has to learn, but there’s no ‘I’ in team.”

Mariah Hicks is the military and veterans reporter. Contact her at [email protected].