Army ROTC cadets explore Yorktown Battlefield

A park ranger gives a tour of the Yorktown Battlefield when Kent State’s ARMY ROTC cadets visited the location to learn about warfare Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.

Kathryn Monsewicz

Senior Army ROTC cadets went to the historic Yorktown Battlefield Saturday to study the offensive and defensive tactics still used in modern warfare.

The Siege of Yorktown secured American independence from the British in October 1781.

A combined effort from Gen. George Washington and French Gen. Comte de Rochambeau captured British defenses in Yorktown, Virginia, leading to the surrender of British Gen. Lord Cornwallis. 

Essentially, the battle was the last in the American Revolutionary War.

Usually, Kent State senior cadets travel to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for the staff ride.

Since almost all the cadets had already been to Gettysburg, a battle Lt. Col. David Simms called “the bridge between ancient and modern warfare,” Yorktown was the next best opportunity.

“It’s a smaller battlefield, but nonetheless more important,” said senior cadet and aeronautics and engineering major Aaron Colavincenzo. He is the battalion’s executive officer.

Colavincenzo said studying battle history is important for modern warfare.

“Everything they used back in the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War we use today,” Colavincenzo said. “Times change. Technology changes. The principles remain.”

Colavincenzo recalled the idea that people who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

“There’s always someone who is going to make the same mistake you did,” he said. 

Studying battle history, like the tactics and maneuvers of offense and defense, teaches cadets about getting through problems that can and will arise during battle.

“It’s a matter of looking at where you’ve been to forward yourself. Learning from your mistakes,” Colavincenzo said.

Senior cadets take the trip annually, known as the staff ride. The staff ride is a requirement of Army ROTC during a cadet’s senior year. The trip is designed to help cadets srudy battle history and to get to know one another better.

“It’s centered on camaraderie and getting to know more about certain people you don’t normally hang out with in class,” Colavincenzo said. “You really get to know your cadre more.”

Being familiar with cadre is important for cadets, as cadre are active duty officers and teachers for the cadets. Colavincenzo said walking up to cadre members like Simms can be intimidating. 

“This trip helps lower the stress level of coming in to see them,” Colavincenzo said. “We can come to them for more than just ROTC.”

Colavincenzo recalled the long, eight-hour car ride to Yorktown. Being in a confined space for so long, he said, helps cadets and cadre get to know one another more.

A park ranger guided cadets on a tour of the battlefield, explaining different pieces of equipment and military tactics, Colavincenzo said. Both original and replica equipment were on display.

After the tour, cadets explored Colonial Williamsburg.

“It’s a great glimpse into the colonies and our new nation during the time of the founding fathers, several of whom lived in the immediate Williamsburg area,” Simms said.

The town is meant to reflect the time period, and remains the way it did in the mid-to-late 18th century. Cadets observed actors in period dress, working occupations like blacksmiths or cobblers, surrounded by preserved buildings and houses.

Horses and buggies were on the streets. Actors tried to recruit newcomers into the Revolutionary Army. As members of the military, cadets were given private access to see some displays otherwise not available to tourists for free.

This is the final year senior cadets will be able to work with one another before they graduate and commission to different jobs in the Army.

Kathryn Monsewicz is the military and veterans reporter. Contact her at [email protected]