One of the big events for any Army ROTC cadet in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) is the Field Training Exercise, held each semester. Known as FTX, this semester’s exercise was held October 12–14 at McKethan Park in Lexington. Cadets from VWIL and Virginia Military Institute (VMI) trained for three days and two nights, participating in various exercises to prepare them for the Army.
For the freshmen, it was a first. They faced physical and mental challenges — including a ruck march, sleeping in the woods, learning how to handle weapons, tactical training — all in three days’ time.
“I loved FTX,” said Alixandria Reinhard ’16. “I thought it was challenging and a refresher from Mary Baldwin. It made me love VWIL even more because of some of our differences [from VMI], but I am really glad I went and I am excited for spring FTX. I came away stronger. I thought the gun familiarization was awesome and I hope we get to keep doing things like that.”
Unlike the freshmen, most of the sophomores have been to at least one FTX. The sophomores, however, started off with something new this time: on the first day they had rides in Black Hawk helicopters to McKethan Park. For the next two days they participated in many different activities that built up their knowledge about the Army and how to survive LDAC [Leadership Development and Assessment Course — the centerpiece of the Army’s ROTC program]. This included land navigation, battle tactics, and a three-mile ruck march.
“I liked everything about it,” said Jasnique Rolle ’15. “I don’t like dealing with the cold, but you have to do what you have to do, especially if you want a career out of it.”
The juniors have the most training-intensive program of all the classes, because this is one of the last FTX’s they will experience before LDAC starts. From solo day-and-night-land navigation, to battle tactics and platoon leading, to surviving a 10-mile ruck march, the juniors pushed themselves to become better.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the FTX this year,” said junior Elizabeth Limerick. “We actually led the group and felt like we were part of the VMI community. The cadre took the time to help in any way possible.”
Seniors, on the other hand, ran the show. Jenna Ritchie ’13 served as company clerk for Fall FTX.
“My job was to keep an accounting of equipment at all times,” Ritchie said. “I learned a lot about how to respond to different leadership tactics. I think the cadets learned a lot about land navigation, and teaming them up with people that already knew how navigate helped them fully understand how to plot and search for points. Hopefully the next time they will be able to find most of their points and gain confidence.”
Not only did the seniors train the underclasswomen, they provided motivation and ensured high morale among cadets. They also took pictures, provided food, and were in charge of equipment and transportation. On the final day of training, all classes were brought back to VMI, where they enjoyed a barbecue and relaxed after a long weekend of training before coming back to Mary Baldwin.