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AROTC Day in the Life by ROTC

Notes from Cadet O'Brien, MIT '12 / Course III

Hi, I am Cadet O’Brien. I am a Junior at MIT majoring in course 3 (Materials Science and Engineering) and an MSIII cadet in the Army ROTC program here at MIT. AROTC allows you to be pretty flexible in how involved you are in the program. You can do the minimum 3 times per week PT (physical training), one military class, and one leadership lab. But I’m not here to talk about minimum requirements. I like being as involved as possible, and I want to show you how awesome that can be.

Once a semester we go on FTX’s (Field Training Exercises). These are 3 day long ventures out into the field where we sleep under the stars at night (or under the rain) and during the day we practice our tactics. We are broken into squads of around 9 with people from other ROTC programs like Northeastern and BU who we have never met before, and set off with everything we brought with us (our sleeping bag, extra boots, dry socks, food, etc.) packed on our back.

Suddenly, there’s a mission. There’s an enemy bunker 400 meters away. You’ve got two hours to destroy it and be out of there. That means 10 minutes to come up with a plan. You plot the grid point on the map and plan the best way to attack. You brief your squad the Operations Order: the situation, your mission, how you’re going to do it, what support you have (if any), and the callsigns of higher, and passwords so you can identify friendlies. Each team has its purpose and they know what to do. A few rehearsals later, and it’s time to step off. Your squad moves in its formation through the woods, wrestling with branches and using hand signals to communicate. You come across an open area, which you saw on the map and devised a plan for. Everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to. Suddenly, a whistle… “INCOMING!!” you scream, and your squad hits the dirt. An ArtieSim (Artillery simulator) explodes somewhere by a tree. There’s little time: you yell out a distance and direction and your squad sprints that far as fast as they can. You consider yourself lucky, at least no one was hit. But you would know what to do if you hadn’t been so lucky. You move quickly into the woods and out of sight. Time to take out a bunker….

At the end of the mission, we talk about what was good, and what we should have handled better. These simulated missions are fun, but they prepare us for the day when we may have to take out a real enemy bunker. We put ourselves in this manufactured stress environment so that we can one day make the real life and death decisions.

During the summer, we have the option to be regular civilians, or to attend awesome schools like Airborne (parachuting out of planes) and Air Assault (rappelling out of helicopters). I spent my freshman summer at Airborne school in Ft. Benning, Georgia learning how to jump out of airplanes, the Army way. That means you go out the door by yourself, sometimes with a combat load dangling around your knees. It was incredibly fun and I met Army people from all over the country and enlisted members of other services.
For my sophomore summer, I applied to attend West Point’s summer training. I was placed in a company of West Point cadets and trained with them at Camp Buckner doing things like patrolling, land navigation (both day and night), marksmanship, urban tactics, and water confidence. We got to shoot howitzers for an entire day, and the training ended with a long run back to West Point’s main campus. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been able to train with the cadets at West Point. They were some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and I’m excited to be officers with them.

Now, Airborne and West Point were optional. This summer, I will be going to mandatory training called LDAC (Leadership Development Assessment Course) with AROTC cadets from all over the country. In order to be able to commission as an officer, we have to pass LDAC. We are graded on our leadership skills and at the end, we go on a simulated deployment where we conduct missions like the ones we practice during FTX’s.

In my experience, ROTC makes you appreciate things that other people take for granted, introduces you to many new faces, and makes you more confident in everything you do.

11 responses to “AROTC Day in the Life”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I admire your work and dedication. You must be proud to receive the respect from all the handsome West Point folks and others for being the nerdy one;)

  2. None says:

    Just checking, you have to be american in order to participate in the ROTC program, right?

  3. Thanks for the great post! It answered a lot of my big ROTC questions. Now if only we could get one about NROTC life…


  4. Robert says:

    I agree with sean! I applied for an nrotc scholarship (even though I’m still waiting for their decision…) which I will likely need to use if I get into MIT. I’d like to hear some more about the life of an NROTC student at MIT, too.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Morteza.

  6. Morteza says:

    @none: In order to be a US military officer you had to be a US citizen (which isn’t surprising). I don’t know about you but I hate anything related to military.

    Science means Construction but Military means Destruction.

    It’s the simplest way I can describe it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There are many who believe that the military is all about violence and war. This is nowhere near the truth.

    It is important to know that the military is made up of more than just combat troops. There are chaplains and doctors and lawyers, not to mention the scientists and engineers. And these researchers do not spend their days thinking up new ways to kill people. True, military research is geared towards the needs of the armed forces, but there are civilian applications and analogs for many of the discoveries; new therapeutics for treating burn victims, novel methods for cybersecurity, etc. Military research through DARPA (with MIT’s help, I might add) was also essential in the development of the internet.

    The people in the military are people who dedicate their lives to something bigger than themselves, and they and their families sacrifice so much for the country.

    All I ask is that you learn more about the military before criticizing and dismissing it as something that it is not.

  8. Morteza says:

    Our today world is consist of some leaders who want more and more and more for themselves and their thirst for power will never be satisfied and they created armies and wars for their own profit. Some in the name of spread of equalty, some in the name of spread of Islam and some in the name of homeland security. Those by products won’t justify it. Look at war, at poverty, at Iraq, at Africa, at Afghanistan instead of those by products. Look at all those precious money and times that could be spent on something other than military.

  9. Sensible says:

    This is a blog about a day in the life of a ROTC cadet, NOT about people’s opinions on the military. Save your opinions for a more appropriate setting.