Editor’s Note: This article offers a unique view of the A&M-San Antonio ROTC from a veteran’s perspective, therefore, the article has a different style than traditional news articles.
I knew Oct. 16 was going to be long and sweaty. Camp Bullis, an Army field training post outside of San Antonio, didn’t disappoint.
Last week I joined a group of four platoons broken down by class rank to learn more about the skills needed to succeed in the summer Cadet Training Course.
The first task involved completing a two-mile ruck march.
Walking up the edges of a rocky road with Army ROTC cadets, carrying 40-45 pounds of supplies in military backpacks nicknamed “rucks,” gave me a renewed appreciation for those whose leadership journey began with the yearning to serve their country.
Cadet Captain Jennifer Faubion, a graduate student pursuing an M.A. in counseling and guidance, helped lead the ruck march and weekend light training exercises.
She kept a close eye on the cadets making sure they maintained a staggered formation while treading the uneven terrain.
Only carrying a 10 pound camera bag, I could hardly keep up with the long striding cadets in the dry 88 degrees weather.
The ruck march helps cadets develop the physical fitness level needed to pass the Cadet Leadership Training Course held annually at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Cadets become a Second Lieutenant once completing the course.
“The ruck march is used to teach cadets to tactically make movements from one area to another, keeping the space between each person five or more meters apart,” Faubion said. “If a grenade falls, the spacing will ensure that everyone is not taken out.”
Eventually, I caught a ride with SFC Jeramie Jordan, Northwest Vista College assistant professor of military science, to the training site.
Jordan is an Army Ranger with 11 deployments under his belt. I asked: “why did you decide to go into the Army?”
His response was typical of the responses I heard that day.
“I felt a compulsion. I wanted to do something bigger than myself,” Jordan said.
Cpt. Ross T. Zarzecki, assistant professor of military science, was one of the faculty advisors at the weekend events.
“It was a good chance for the upperclassmen to implement and test their training plans for holes,” Zarzecki said. “It gave them a chance to lead, to do something bigger and get out of the classroom. It was on them to get it done and we made sure they didn’t fail.”
A way to help students improve is to get them out of the classroom.
“There are some things that can’t be taught in the classroom,” Zarzecki said. “It’s not until you physically do things that you get a true understanding of them.”
Criminology junior Keishla Flores enjoyed the eye-opening experience she had.
“The ruck march was tougher than I had expected and the heat was super bad,” Flores said
At midday, Camp Bullis temperatures reached 90 degrees. A startled roadrunner ran ahead of the formation at one point nimbly traversing the arid landscape thick with agave.
“This was the first time I went out. I wanted to continue, even tired with four blisters on my feet,” she said. “I wanted to finish all the training. I didn’t want to go home. I had to prove myself.”
The University of Texas at San Antonio hosted the weekend’s events. UTSA is the parent organization for most of San Antonio’s Army ROTC programs. Classes are available at corresponding campuses with professors receiving salaries from the military.
Anyone can enroll in ROTC classes. Signing on the dotted line for military service is not required. Qualified students who have signed up with a branch of service, contracted cadets, can receive ROTC scholarships. All contracted cadets receive monthly military stipends. Some, prior enlisted contracted students use their GI Bill to pay for college.