UMKC ROTC Students Participate in Field Training Exercises
On a quiet gravel road in Parkville, Mo., peace erupted into chaos.
A highly trained observer might have caught the subtle harbingers – the sound of combat boots padding through the heavily wooded area; or whispered orders, given just a little too loudly; or the sight of camouflaged arms parting the fall leaves.
Despite those signs, the enemy combatants seemed unaware that just a few feet away, ten soldiers crouched down, watching and waiting for orders.
Then the order came. They jumped into action.
A series of gunshots pierced the air. The enemies fell to the ground. A few of the soldiers jumped out from behind the bushes to drag the bodies off the gravel road and into the brush.
But of course, the gunshots weren’t actual gunshots. And the enemies? They were actually friends.
It was all part of a field training exercise for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a college-based program that trains commissioned officers for the military. The soldiers had prepared more than two hours for this mission by weighing their options, talking strategy, and navigating the wooded terrain. Exercises like this one occur every semester, as part of a long weekend that gives area ROTC students a chance to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City was one of nine area universities that sent ROTC students to the camp. Nearly 40 UMKC students participate in the university’s ROTC program. Once contracted, cadets have an eight-year commitment to the military, either on active duty, reserve, or a combination. Contracted cadets receive a monthly stipend and those on scholarship also receive 100% tuition and fees for up to five years. Scholarships are awarded based on a combination of factors, including GPA, physical fitness, availability of funds and academic major. The program is available to undergraduate, graduate and professional degree-seeking students.
The university also maintains an active Student Veteran Organization. These programs are just a few ways that UMKC supports veterans and students who are interested in military careers. Earlier this year, the university was named to the 2014 Military Friendly Schools list. The Student Veterans Virtual Resource Center provides additional resources to students.
Patrick Klein, a senior Political Science and Philosophy major, has participated in ROTC for four years. As one of the more experienced students, Klein was in observation mode during the afternoon exercise. Seniors typically pair up with newer members so that they can give feedback at the end of a mission.
Klein and the other seniors were looking for a few common things: proper communication, confidence, and interpersonal tact. He’s in the more senior role now, but Klein hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to go through these exercises for the first time.
“It’s a very stressful situation, and on top of that, you have to act quickly. The process teaches you a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of,” Klein said.
The pressure can make people freeze up. Others get a rush of adrenaline. Sometimes their thinking goes foggy. Other times it becomes clear and precise. Either way, the exercises nearly always show that classroom lessons require real-world tests.
Les Armstrong is in his fourth year of the ROTC program, and a student in the UMKC School of Pharmacy. Like Klein, he’s been through both sides of the exercise. He says he has enjoyed the experience. In a way, it’s in his blood. His dad was in the Air Force, and his brother is currently serving in the Air Force.
“I knew I wanted to serve my country. That’s something that has been instilled in me, but I didn’t really know how to do it without ROTC. This has worked out well for me,” Armstrong said.