Training for different terrain

D.J. Petty

Army ROTC cadets practice land navigation exercises in Ravenna

ROTC students get instructions from a commanding officer before heading into the woods for a land navigation exercise in Ravenna. PHOTOS BY CAITLIN PRARAT | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Jolene Miller went to Towner’s Woods to help guide fellow Army ROTC cadets through wooded terrain. While undertaking leadership duties, Miller became more than a leader – she became bug food.

Miller, a senior psychology major, is the ROTC student in charge of personnel. With her back covered in relentless red welts from mosquito bites, she laughed, “I’m dedicated to the cause. Mosquito bites and all. That’s dedication for you.”

Two platoons met at Towner’s Woods to practice land navigation, a practical exercise that every ROTC student takes to prepare for a required task to graduate from the program: conquering the land at Fort Lewis in Washington state.

Although the platoons were splintered into groups, the goal was to master the task, not to compete with their colleagues.

“It’s not a race. There’s a lot of pride involved,” said Dan Ackerman, senior political science and history major.

Master Sgt. Wesley Gilmore commanded the students to “find their marks.” The group had 50 minutes to cover two square miles, finding numerous markers throughout the course.

Prior to dispersing, Gilmore stopped the cadets and urged them to look out for one another. “We will not leave a man behind,” he said.

Each of them armed with a compass, protractor and a map, the students ventured toward the woods.

Jennifer Hergenroeder said the students had a contingency plan if necessary.

“If you get lost, you point your compass in a certain direction and it takes you back,” she said.

Hergenroeder, also a graduate student in criminal justice, remembered her first time venturing out.

“I was completely confused the first time,” she said. The Army ROTC executive officer has since taken a different view on the outing. “It’s a lot of fun,” said Hergenroeder.

Freshmen paired with seniors, sophomores paired with each other and juniors were on their own. Juniors were the next group to head to Fort Lewis for the ultimate navigation test.

Maj. Aaron McPeake saw the ability to navigate land as an all-purpose application.

“Be it Kosovo or Kent State, you can use land navigation,” McPeake said. However, he said that low use of the skill could lead to its disappearance. “It’s a perishable skill. I had to give myself a refresher course because I teach it,” he said.

“If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Contact ROTC and Business Administration reporter D.J. Petty at [email protected].