More than 60 ROTC cadets from the nine Missouri universities that make up the Army’s Gateway Battalion converged on Fort Leonard Wood this month for their annual fall field training exercise.
The battalion is made up of cadets from Washington University, St. Louis University, Lindenwood University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Fontbonne University, Missouri Baptist University, Harris Stowe State University, Maryville University, and Webster University.
According to the Professor of Military Science for the Gateway Battalion at Washington University, Lt. Col. Ray Kuderka, the cadets faced many challenges over the weekend, including the confidence course, leadership reaction course, and day and night land navigation. They also conducted live-fire training and rappelled down the 47-foot-tall Warrior Tower at Training Area 136.
“The intent behind the program is to really introduce our new cadets to the Army,” said Kuderka, who took over command of the battalion in July. “For many of our personnel here, this is the first time they’ve ever worn a military uniform. It’s a great opportunity to expose them to all the great things you get to experience in the Army.”
Besides introducing the first-year cadets — commonly referred to by their rank as MSIs, for Military Science One — to the Army, Kuderka said every cadet at the FTX was given the chance to learn something new.
The MSIIs — sophomores, or second-year cadets — took on small leadership roles and learned about the responsibilities within those positions, Kuderka said. For the MSIIIs — juniors, or third-year cadets — the FTX was a chance to practice some of the skills and tactical knowledge they will need next year for what’s called Cadet Summer Training, a four-week course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, that ROTC cadets typically attend between their junior and senior years. The seniors, or MSIVs, were tasked with ensuring the event ran smoothly.
“(The FTX) is resourced and executed by our senior class,” Kuderka said.
One of this year’s MSIVs, Benjamin Pollman, is a psychology major at St. Louis University who wants to specialize in Army aviation as an active-duty officer. He knows his way around Fort Leonard Wood, and not just because he’s been to a few ROTC events here — he grew up here; his father is a retired Soldier.
Seeing the FTX from the senior cadet perspective gave Pollman new-found respect for the people who planned it in the past, he said.
“Freshman through junior years, it was just about showing up and doing it,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much work, how much time and effort, planning and coordination when into it. So, being able to actually see that, experience it and do it was mind-opening.”
Pollman added it was good to be planning and executing the FTX alongside a dedicated team of MSIVs.
“Seeing us all come together to create an event that fosters the Army Values, promotes camaraderie and really gets the cadets to be committed to the program and want to come back was really rewarding as well,” he said.
Naveena Mutharasan, from Decatur, Illinois, is a freshman at St. Louis University who said she had never even touched a gun — much less fired one — until this FTX.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “It was kind of like my free trial to see what the Army is about, see what the culture is like. I absolutely love it. I’m definitely going to continue. I’ve always been inspired by military culture. There are so many core values to it — I’m seeing them play out in real-time — and the leadership is incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. They’re always so encouraging.”
Besides firing the M4 rifle, which Mutharasan called “unreal,” the night land navigation was a highlight from the weekend.
“Although it was incredibly difficult, I think it was fun for me in a way because it was so challenging, and I think I got closer to some of my peers as well,” she said.
Visit the Gateway Battalion’s Facebook page to see more photos from the fall FTX.
This is an issued press release from the U.S. Army. More information on the Army’s ROTC program is available here.