UT's Army Reserved Officers' Training Corps program not only challenges its

cadets in the classroom, but also in the field.

One hundred and fifty ROTC cadets from four area universities participated

in a series of training programs and situational exercises-- or STX-- last

weekend in Fort Knox, Ky., and I was able to join them. The experience

allowed me as a civilian to see firsthand what the cadets go through.

The training kicked off early Friday morning as the MS-3s (juniors)

conducted squad level situational training exercises. These exercises are

designed to test the cadets' leadership abilities in various combat

scenarios. Each leader is evaluated on their ability to plan, lead and

control their unit in a hostile environment.

Meanwhile, the MS-1 (freshmen) and MS-2 (sophomores) cadets toured the

Patton Museum and received an orientation to an AH-64 Apache attack

helicopter that will soon be deployed to Kosovo. They also had the

opportunity to operate tank simulators.

As I arrived Friday night, the cadets were participating in land navigation

training in the woods.

At 5 a.m. Saturday morning, while the rest of the world was still asleep,

the dreaded "lights on" came.

It was the beginning of a busy day for the cadets. They left early for

weapons check and breakfast.

At 6:30 a.m., we headed toward the platoon STX, where the MS-3s were going

to be evaluated on field leadership. This is done to see how they and their

platoon react under hostile circumstances, such as being fired upon by

snipers.

Cadet Kelly Street and Cadet Nick Meadows, both MS-3s, were appointed as

platoon sergeant and platoon leader. Together they led their platoon

through densely wooded areas and past snipers to complete their mission, a

raid on an enemy base camp.

At the same time, the MS-1s and MS-2s were at Canby Rifle Qualification

Range. An instructor and some of the MS-4s (seniors) were briefing them on

how to handle, use and shoot M-16 rifles from different tactical

positions.

The cadets finished training and were taken by bus to Holder Maintenance

Complex. There they cleaned the M-16s and the MS-4s and cadre inspected

their work.

From 7 p.m. Saturday night to 5 a.m. Sunday morning, the cadets finally had

some free time to relax and clean their gear.

Sunday morning came all too quickly for all, but the excitement of the

Field Leadership Reaction Course had the tired cadets ready for their last

exercise.

The cadets were organized into ten teams for the ten stations of the FLRC.

The purpose of the course is to evaluate cadet leadership, teamwork,

communication and their ability to accomplish a task under mentally and

physically challenging conditions.