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AFROTC cadets take part in Multi-Detachment Exercise at Pope AAF

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Solomon Cook
  • 43rd Air Mobility Operations Group Public Affairs

In the early morning hours as the sun crests the horizon, a mixture of cadences can be heard across Pope Army Airfield. The cadences not delivered from active duty personnel, but cadets from seven Air Force Reserve Officer’ Training Corp (ROTC) detachments as they took part in a multi-detachment exercise April 12-14, 2024.

The three-day event intended to simulate an Air Force deployment, gave cadets the opportunity to visit an Air Force installation and interact with active duty members. From ruck marches to simulated small team tactics, the cadets learned, applied and honed skills they may not have had prior to the visit.

“Pope’s active duty members from three major commands and a wide variety of career fields provided a mock deployment scenario in which 130 Air Force ROTC cadets from all seven detachments within the state of North Carolina,” said Maj. Robert J. O'Meara, 18th Air Support Operations Group director of special warfare mission support. “This field training exercise allowed 90 of 130 cadets to experience what it could be like to be deployed to an environment in which the situation and tensions are extremely high and potentially volatile. 

“It allowed these cadets to be evaluated by their training staff on their leadership style and potential before proceeding to field training this summer at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.,” O’Meara added.

Field training evaluates a cadet's knowledge and ability to apply skills to serve as a leader at a cadet wing. Additionally, field training is a time in which cadets will be stratified amongst their peers. Completion of field training is a requirement to commission through Air Force ROTC.

For the multi-detachment exercise, the cadets were housed in a warehouse like facility during their stay at Pope. In their temporary housing, they slept on cots and dined primarily on meals ready to eat (MRE). This added to the realism of the mock deployment.

The more than 100 cadets were divided into smaller squads and purposely separated from their classmates from their respective schools. This forced them to work effectively while getting to know new teammates – a critical skill that occurs on true deployments.

“[It is intended] to get them ready for what it would be like to work with a group of people they’ve never met before in an environment they haven't been in before and sleep in non-traditional places,” said Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, North Carolina State University Detachment 595 commander. “[Additionally, we demonstrate] some of the stressors they might face in an environment like that to help build confidence and their abilities as young officers as they move forward.”

Becoming accustomed to the less than optimal sleeping arrangements and going through the storming and norming phases of team development was only the beginning. From there, the cadets began their training under the tutelage of Team Pope active duty members from various career fields.

“Our Cadets have been exposed to all sorts of different career fields while they've been here,” Jordan said. “From members of the 18th ASOG tactical control party to members from the 43rd Force Support Squadron to logistics readiness personnel, they're being exposed to a wide variety of different career fields and they're actually able to see what we do in the Air Force on a day-to-day basis and what the Air Force brings to the fight.”

I think there is a huge value to be gained from working with our active duty partners out there, whether it's the officer or the enlisted force. Anyone can bring value and help with the mentorship and development of young officers. It is also important to show the skill sets of what our various career fields bring to the fight and show that every career field has value.  Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, North Carolina State University Detachment 595 commander

The cadets learned new skills in both instructional and in a hands-on format. It was their responsibility to adequately receive and digest the new information in a short period of time and apply it during their capstone event.

“The intent for the entire event was to provide a safe experience in which the cadets could work on the skills that they’ve been taught and have some fun while doing it,” O’Meara said. “I would say that the biggest success came from the Exfil Capstone at the end of day one and the paintball scenarios during day two. I was able to see the cadets put the skills into actual practice when some stress was applied.”

“During the Exfil scenario, we applied some initial stress with a surprise in-direct fire (IDF) attack by utilizing some flash grenades in an open field that provided some loud noises,” he elaborated. “We then backed off to allow the cadets to work on their land navigation and Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) skills to get to a pre-positioned mass casualty event and their safe zone. During the paintball scenarios, we applied more continual stress by providing an Opposition Force (OPFOR) that made the cadets work on all their skills while having to deal with paintball rounds flying.”

Events like these are very important and need to be planned more often. It is an expeditionary event and taught us expeditionary skills. Usually at detachments these skills are more of a textbook kind of thing that's taught. You can't really learn it out in the field because you don't know if all detachments have access to this type of equipment or space to train. It’s an opportunity to come out here and experience this and get to and learn these expeditionary skills firsthand that you're going to need during not only field training, but you may even need in the Air Force.  Cadet Hudson Long, N.C. State University Det. 595 honor guard commander

As the event came to a close, participants from the various schools said their goodbyes slightly war weary, but with smiling faces. Exchanging patches and regaling in the lessons learned, they parted ways – until next year.