The sun glinted off the roll of concertina wire that was blocking the road. Soldiers in ACUs stood by, sweat dripping down their faces. The squad stood nervously at their TCP (Traffic Control Point), each soldier at his or her assigned position. The squad leader checked and rechecked that all personnel were in their appropriate positions to search a vehicle if it should come along. A moment later, a white truck rumbled into view, approaching the concertina wire.
The squad sprang into action, addressing the driver, having him open all necessary doors and compartments before sending him off to be searched by a different team. Then the vehicle search team went to work, combing every single inch of the truck, looking for anything suspicious...a yell alerted the squad leader that something had been found. The soldiers backed away from the vehicle, eyeing the wires protruding from the back seat. EOD was on-site and quickly determined that there were two 155 mm artillery rounds in the back of the truck. The driver was swiftly detained. Another successful mission in a combat zone?
No, just another ROTC lab day. Wildcat Battalion was conducting Traffic Control Point training for its cadets. Each squad was told to set up a TCP and go through the proper steps to ensure that there were no VBIEDs (vehicle born improvised explosive device) getting through the checkpoint. It's another tool for future officers to have.
My position for the lab (as a senior) was to evaluate the platoon sergeant (PSG) from White Platoon. Evaluating opportunities being few (the platoon sergeant falls in with his or her squad during labs), I transitioned to an en-route trainer. I accompanied the platoon through all three of its lanes: TCP, First Aid, and Assault an Objective. Cadets were instructed by other MS IVs in all of these classes. The junior cadets learned the basics of battlefield first aid (superior firepower is the best medicine!) and how to move on an objective.
Cadets armed with rubber ducks (Army slang for training models of the M16, made of plastic) slowly advanced through the woods around campus, scaring runners and exciting dogs. It is somewhat surreal to see troops in full battle-rattle (full equipment, which can include kevlar/ACH helmet, ballistic vest, assault pack, and load bearing equipment) move through a large college campus. Some students don't react, used to the sight of 100 plus cadets out for training. Others stop and stare, amazed, especially if we've got helicopters for the training day. Some, sadly, look upset to see us. But that's OK, because that's why we're here: so people can have the freedom to object to our presence.
The lab over, cadets gathered for an After Action Report (AAR). They discuss the good and the bad of the lab, and offer improvements. Some think the training was relevant, others think it didn't go in depth enough. This feedback is taken into account by the seniors, and we use it to make other labs more successful. The whole idea of the leadership lab is to give cadets a solid four hours of training during the week, and every minute needs to be used. Even down time is a training opportunity, where prior service cadets can step up and teach an impromptu class on skills they learned while in the Army. Each lab offers different training, but all of them have one thing in common: they never go according to plan. And that is the beauty of it, because otherwise, we, the MS IVs responsible for the training, would get lazy. The unpredictability keeps us on our toes and allows us, in the immortal words of Clint Eastwood to "adapt, overcome, and survive."
And those are lab days.