Army ROTC holds weekend-long field training exercises in Tullahoma

From Oct. 11 to Oct. 13, cadets in Vandebilt’s AROTC program practiced missions and land navigation in the woods around Arnolds Air Force Base

Benjamin Govan, a first-year attending Lipscomb, participates in a tactical lane. (Photo credit Brandon Haley)

Benjamin Govan, a first-year attending Lipscomb, participates in a tactical lane. (Photo credit Brandon Haley)

Caitlin David, Staff Writer

Vanderbilt Army ROTC (AROTC) engaged in Field Training Exercises (FTX) at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma, TN from Oct. 11 through Oct. 13. Held once a semester, FTX is a weekend-long program that trains members of AROTC in land navigation and tactical lanes. 

Vanderbilt’s AROTC is a major program that draws cadets from seven different schools, including Lipscomb, Belmont, Fisk, TSU, Welch College and Trevecca Nazarene University. In the spring, Vanderbilt’s AROTC will host FTX with other universities in Tennessee, including MTSU and Tennessee Tech. 

FTX teaches cadets to manage stress and practice leadership skills. According to senior Brandon Haley, all members of Vanderbilt’s AROTC will have extensive experience in leading others by the time they graduate. 

“Our mission is to take high school students and turn them into army officers in four years,” Haley said. “When they graduate, they’ll commission into being a Second Lieutenant. It’s a major development process.”

Cadets completed both individual and group tasks in FTX. On Saturday, cadets trained in tactical lanes, where Army leadership assigned missions that could occur in the real world. Throughout the day, juniors led underclassmen on ambush, raid, attack and reconnaissance missions. Tactical lanes give upperclassmen the opportunity to lead their peers and receive feedback on their leadership skills, Haley said.

Rafael Vieira, a junior at Belmont, is teaching a class on weapons. He is showing the underclassmen how they work and how to break them down, Haley said. (Photo credit Brandon Haley)

“They’re actually out in the woods, and that’s where we put them in rigorous leadership roles,” Haley said. “It makes them practice being comfortable under stress and gives them us a good feeling of where they’re at in their development.”

On Sunday, cadets embarked on individual land navigation missions in the woods around the air force base. Cadets use maps, coordinates and protractors to find landmarks scattered throughout the woods.

FTX is especially important in preparing underclassmen for what is to come. Between their junior and senior years, all members of AROTC will participate in a 45 day camp in Fort Knox, KY. Haley completed the camp this past summer.

“It was an experience,” Haley said. “We had 24 days in the field sleeping in the woods. For the first two weeks you’re doing individual tasks like shooting on a range, land navigation and learning how to throw grenades. It develops you a lot, but it’s stressful.”

This camp typically hosts 40 cadets. Throughout the 45 days, these cadets constantly switch leadership roles so that they both lead and follow at different times. It can be challenging to lead your peers and then suddenly have to follow them, Haley said.

Despite the challenges that cadets faced in the past weekend, AROTC serves as a family, Haley said. A member of Army leadership, Lieutenant Colonel Dustin Mitchell, agrees with him. According to Mitchell, Vanderbilt, and especially Vanderbilt AROTC, has a special culture that supports its members.

“FTX might be challenging for some cadets, but it’s a learning experience,” Haley said. “This is a first stepping stone. We’ve got a lot of work to do before camp.”