Battling in Virginia: ROTC cadets conduct weekend training

Bang! Bang! Shots rang out. After a few minutes of gunfire, several insurgents and American soldiers had been killed.

After the gunfire ceased, cadre members, officers and sergeants of the United States Army, went over what participants did wrong and what they did right. This was not a real battlefield; instead, it was Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia where Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets from battalions at Georgetown University, Howard University and University of Maryland participated in a weekend-long battalion training exercise in mid-November.

Cadet John Allison, a junior at GW, is a member of Army ROTC as part of the Georgetown Battalion. This battalion includes students from GW, Georgetown, American, Catholic and Marymount Universities. In total, there are 99 cadets in the Georgetown Battalion and 30 of them are GW students.

Allison, like many of the other cadets, said he felt a duty to join ROTC.

“I’ve done a lot of traveling and I’ve been to the Ukraine and I’ve noticed how lucky we are as Americans,” Allison said. “I wanted to give something back to the country because I know how privileged we are living here.”

Allison began his college career at West Point, but left before junior year began. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted active duty, but I always knew I wanted to be in the Army,” he said. He enrolled at GW and joined ROTC, where participants can serve as active duty, in the Army Reserve or as a part of the National Guard upon completion of the program.

Sid Hays, a Georgetown senior and the cadet in charge of civil affairs, said the active duty requirement for ROTC members is four years. For Army Reserve and National Guard cadets, it is six years, plus two years of inactive ready reserve. Inactive ready reserve members are only called up when the president asks for them and do not regularly serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year, like the Reserve and Guard members do.

“The focus of our training (here) is our MSIIIs, who are the junior cadets, and they are going off to (Leader Development and Assessment Course) in the summer,” said Darren Withers, the operations training officer and a senior at Georgetown.

The LDAC is taken by all cadets following completion of their MSIII year, which for most is their junior year. It is a four-week course conducted at Fort Lewis, Wash., where cadets are evaluated and trained.

Cadets’ performance at LDAC factors into a nationwide ranking used to determine a cadet’s military occupational specialty – in other words, what type of job the cadet is suited for in the military.

This weekend, cadets participated in three different exercises to prepare for LDAC. When they first arrived, MSIIIs were put in charge of groups on the Field Leadership Reactions Course. Cadets on the FLRC were judged on teamwork and leadership, not necessarily their ability to complete the task at hand.

Following FLRC, cadets were tested on land navigation. They were given eight coordinates, and ordered to find at least five to pass. To conclude the weekend, cadets entered the patrol phase. Under the cover of darkness, and without a moon, cadets performed a nighttime patrol and platoon link-up before setting up a patrol base for the night. After a few hours for rest, the cadets received new orders and set out on a combat patrol.

Richard Murphy, a 2001 GW graduate and former editor in chief of The Hatchet, acted as a poll station manager during the weekend’s patrol phase. His goal was essentially to make life difficult for the junior cadets. For this task, Murphy was able to draw from past experience.

“I’ve been in Iraq and I know how things are generally operating over there,” Murphy said.

Murphy was attending law school at GW when the attacks on Sept. 11 occurred, and in 2002, he left law school to enlist in the Army. Murphy said he wanted an opportunity to go after terrorists.

Murphy said his unit was deployed to Al Hillah, Iraq, where the unit was responsible for maintaining law and order. There, he experienced the difficulties in training an Iraqi police force with American values.

“The concept that police serve the community is foreign to them,” Murphy said. “(In Iraq) everyone takes bribes.”

The next portion of his deployment saw Murphy assigned to Abu Ghraib Prison. Members from his unit would be involved in the prisoner abuse scandal that has since made the prison infamous. Despite the impression many now have of Abu Ghraib, Murphy said the abuse was very isolated.

“It occurred in the most isolated place in this prison,” Murphy said. “Nothing like that occurred outside of that area, as far as I ever witnessed.”

Murphy said the biggest lesson we can take away from Abu Ghraib is the importance of respect. Murphy was in charge of 320 prisoners and never had a riot in his cell block, something he said he attributes to the respect he showed his prisoners.

Following the completion of his tour of duty in Iraq, Murphy returned to law school, and joined ROTC hoping to become a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps in the Army Reserve. During his two years in the ROTC program, he has received over $70,000 from his ROTC scholarship that he used toward his law school tuition.

“ROTC is really the best leadership training you can get in college … It’s the best leadership training you can get anywhere as far as I’m concerned,” Murphy said.

In January, Murphy will graduate from law school and be commissioned as a second lieutenant. While waiting for the results from his bar exam, he will be a recruiter for the Georgetown ROTC. It will give him more time to be around those he considers family.

“You don’t get that (relationship) anywhere else in college. I was in a frat and you don’t get that in a frat,” Murphy said. “It is literally like a family.”

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