Monday, April 27, 2009

A Semester in Review

Today the MSI's, or freshman, took their last PT test of the semester. It is coming down to the wire now. This is the final week in the semester and marks the end of a long four months. As a whole, the semester has been extremely productive and provided a number of lessons. In my case, I have found and implemented a workout that will actually work to improve PT results. In my case, I have improved my score by 25 points, including getting slower on the run. This was due to a foot injury. The workout is the same one that I wrote about a few months ago. The workout consists of about forty-five minutes of pushups and situps prior to any running or cardio. I typically do the workout four to five times per week. The only drawback is that it eats up time. You will need about an hour and a half to have a complete workout. If interested, you can look back to my previous discussions. Besides improving my overall physical shape, I was able to continue my success in school. It can be challenging managing time as a cadet. The biggest piece of advice that I can offer is to remember your priorities. As a cadet, your first responsibility is to graduate from school. At times this will not seem to be the case; however, without graduating, there is no point helping with ROTC. I am not saying to avoid participating by blaming your time commitments. You have the responsibility to do everything you can to help the program without hurting yourself. Balancing responsibilities is an acquired skill. Use this time to learn how to prioritize.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

GRFD, What is it?

The GRFD is a guaranteed reserve force duty contract, which is a commitment that works just like a federal scholarship. When a cadet signs one of these, they commit to serving in the National Guard or Army Reserves for six years. Just like the Federal scholarship, any cadet who agrees to this will receive either tuition or room and board and a book allowance. In the case of the guard, soldiers already receive 100% tuition for a state school. This can be combined with the GRFD to cover almost all of a students expenses. This may be the main cause in the rise in the number of cadets joining the national guard. At ISU the percentage of cadets that are entering the National Guard compared to Active Duty is growing. The GRFD may be the main cause of this, but there are a number of other factors. Another factor is the prospect of getting a job after school. Many people view active duty as a loss in liberties and an involuntary relocation. It can be difficult to volunteer to move to a random location, especially if you hope to have a family or maintain a relationship. This jump in GRFD's, regardless of the reason behind them, has had an impact on the accessions process. It is now much easier for qualified candidates to get an active duty spot. Some of the most qualified candidates do not want to go on active duty anymore, opening up slots for those who would not have made it in past years. This change hasn't impacted active duty as much as one might think because the US Army can pull anyone it needs for active duty. The needs of the Army come before the wants of soldiers. The National Guard has had no trouble making its initial recruitment for officers. The challenge has been keeping officers beyond their initial commitment.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Best Staff Ride Ever

Our staff ride to the Jefferson Barracks was a great time. For starters we had amazing luck with the weather. Yesterday happened to be the best day of this year for weather. It was about eighty degrees, sunny, and slightly breezy. The day began with a brief class and discussion about the Battle of the Bulge. After we had a good feel for the battle and its background, we headed down to St. Louis. Once we arrived, we spent about an hour or so walking around the living display that was set up. The living display consisted of a bunch of collectors and WWII reenactors that had set up a large camp full of authentic WWII equipment. This equipment covered everything that you can imagine. There were a number of American, British, and Russian weapons on display. They all were in immaculate condition. I was surprised at just how clean everything was. All of the collectors were extremely knowledgeable and friendly. We were able to see much of the equipment that was used during the war and develop a better understanding for what veterans went through. It was extremely entertaining to look at all of the old vehicles. We were even able to take a ride in two different half-track vehicles. After seeing the display, we met up with the Gateway Chapter of the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. This group of men shared their story with us and all that they experienced in Europe. Their experiences and advice were extremely valuable and inspiring. There is a great deal to be learned from these heroes. Next time you have the opportunity, go out and talk to a veteran, and thank them for all they have done.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ready for Active Duty

Now that it is coming close to graduation time, it is time for those of us graduating to get ready for the training that follows. The most challenging part of getting ready is doing so when we have so much going on. The end of the year is always incredibly busy with finals and packing. Time is at a premium. The hardest part is getting ready for active duty without any time to do so. My challenge will be getting packed, ensuring I know everything I need, and spending time with my family in the two weeks that follow graduation. The way things look now, I am a little worried that there will not be enough of me to go around. My main strategy will be packing everything military related in plastic bins early on, so I don't have to worry about getting my equipment ready when it comes time to leave. I also plan on labeling each bin with an inventory of everything inside. I also have the benefit of having a few months at Ft. Knox to review all of the information that I will need for my follow-on training. This is everything from 7-8 stuff to all of the specifics of the OPORD. I anticipate getting to LTC and having only a small amount to do. I am sure that it depends upon the specific job, but I am willing to bet that all of the jobs have only a limited amount. The biggest concern for me is the fear of the unknown. This is not to say that I am afraid of what awaits me, it just adds to the overall uncertainty. As a whole, I am excited for what lies ahead. It will be challenging to ensure I am fully prepared with less than a month remaining until I leave.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Staff Ride

As MSIV's you will have the opportunity to participate in the Staff Ride. The staff ride is an all day event that the seniors spend discussing military history at a historically significant location. During my MSIV year, we went to Cantigny. I forget exactly how it is classified, either as a park or a museum. When we were there, we each had a small presentation that described a situation or story that came from each of the different conflicts that the First Infantry Division was involved in. The museum shows artifacts and has displays for each of the conflicts. For the most part the day is a nice break from the day to day stuff. It also serves as a very informative experience. I learned a great deal from my classmates. We made sure to focus on more obscure stories, that way everyone learned new things. By the end of the day we were pretty worn out, but it was worth it. This year I have had the benefit of going on another staff ride. Luckily, we will not be attending the same venue. The plan is to visit the Jefferson Barracks. Although my knowledge of the Battle of the Bulge is limited, I do know that this is one of the most significant memorials in the area. The barracks overlook the Mississippi River, and are located in St. Louis. The plan for the day looks to be one of the best days as far as ROTC events are concerned. After spending a few hours at the museum, we will be changing and heading to the St. Louis Cardinals and Cubs game. I just wish that I was a fan of either team, but I will settle for watching the Cubs get destroyed. That always makes for a good time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Leaving A Legacy

I must apologize up-front for the following blog. It is a rant, and I have no intention of dressing it up. As someone who has invested hundreds of hours into developing and building ISU's ROTC program, I have a certain level of attachment with its success. I would like to see the program continue to improve from year to year. Nothing would make me happier than to see the next class take what we did and make it that much better. Running the program as MS IV's is not a competition with the previous years. Instead, you are competing against yourself to make the next group as strong as they can be. That is the whole point of an ROTC battalion. Our mission is to train and recruit Army Officers. Everything we do should be based on accomplishing the mission put before us. As seniors it is our job to do everything we can to help out the underclassmen. This pertains to training, operations, and administrative matters. As trainers it is our responsibility to prepare stimulating and challenging training opportunities. This doesn't happen when people don't show up, complete their responsibilities, and simply don't care for others. There is no room for leaders to be selfish. This is a dangerous attitude for people who will be looking out for others for years to come. Remember this when it comes your turn to lead. Remember when you were coming into the program. Think about what you could not stand and what your concerns were. By taking care of the younger cadets, you are leaving a legacy. Take pride in what you are doing, and leave the program better than when you entered it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Different FTX

Today was the Field Training Exercise (FTX) for the MSI's and MSII's. Typically the FTX consists of a three day weekend spent at Marseilles. These weekends always were a killer for the younger cadets as well as the seniors. They eat up the entire weekend and leave cadets with a lot of work to do. This year was much different. Instead of a three day adventure, the spring FTX is only a half-day consisting of scuba lessons, air rifle training, and a catered barbecue. I took advantage of the opportunity to go to the pool early for a swim. With no more free swim at McCormick, I take advantage of any opportunity for a wet work out. The bulk of participants showed up around 730. The gentlemen that handled the scuba courses were much more professional than I expected. They came in with full sets of gear for about 15 people. Within 20 minutes everything was set up and ready to go. Unfortunately, the cadets weren't ready for another ten minutes. As a training event, a brief scuba class seemed like a great idea. Everyone involved seemed to be excited when it came time to get in the pool. The other event, the air rifles can be a good time. The rifles are not like the typical BB guns that we all grew up with. They are precision rifles, costing over two thousand dollars each. Shooting the rifles is a good time; however, it can get a little slow at times. Overall, the two events make for a good Saturday. The cadets weren't trapped all weekend, and they got to eat good food. I think that it was a great move to shorten up the weekend and make it fun. Kudos