When Army cadets from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Boulder ROTC programs go on a training exercise, they disappear into the dense bush of Fort Carson away from roads, parks and trails.
"Everything we have there is wilderness and what we brought with us," said Todd Emmert, a cadet in the Mountain Ranger ROTC Battalion at UCCS.
UCCS military science professor Lt. Col. Mark Thompson said the annual exercise, at Fort Carson this April for only the second time since the 1990s, is a great opportunity for cadets of both University of Colorado ROTC departments, and their combined 18 feeder schools, to learn leadership techniques and hone their team-building skills.
During the three-day exercise, cadets from across the Front Range practiced land navigation, squad and platoon tactics, operational planning and even helicopter operations supported by Fort Carson's 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, said Colorado College senior and Mountain Ranger Battalion cadet Grant Rice.
"Every spring we do a joint field training exercise with the northern Colorado ROTC programs, to simulate the conditions of the Leadership Development Assessment Course, which all the juniors go through after their junior year," Grant said.
A Dover, Mass., native, Grant is an economics major and track athlete at Colorado College, but will receive his commission in the Army from UCCS next month.
Though he's completed the requirements for graduation and commissioning, he said the opportunity to help plan and execute this year's field exercise is a welcome experience to take with him to his dawning career.
"I got the most value out of the planning phase of this exercise. I became pretty familiar with the military decision-making process," Grant said.
ROTC programs put officer training courses at traditional colleges that can lead to commissioning at the end of the program.
Denver native and UCCS freshman Maria Falcon said she had fun mastering land navigation and is interested in learning platoon tactics by observing the training performed by sophomore and junior cadets.
A psychology major, Falcon said her favorite part of the field exercise was watching cadets learn to cooperate.
"It was interesting to see two units come together in cohesion. My ROTC program is a lot different here than Boulder. I could see that immediately. I just love that; because I'm going to need that in the future, being able to work with other people," Falcon said.