You’re walking along AJ’s Way when you notice a man or woman in uniform approaching you; you look up, smile and continue to go about your business, never fully realizing what is involved in the soldier’s college atmosphere.
While the average college student’s week is filled with studying, writing papers, completing projects and attending class, Gannon University Army ROTC cadets’ average week has even more requirements: physical fitness sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings; leadership classes Tuesdays and Thursdays; field exercise leadership labs every few Saturdays; operation meetings; and numerous extracurricular activities, such as ranger challenge, color guard, and the Army 10-miler.
Last year, after having been awarded one of only eight national General Douglas MacArthur Awards, the Pride of PA Army ROTC Battalion – consisting of Gannon University, Mercyhurst University and Penn State Berhend – has started off tenaciously once again, its sights set on exceeding last year’s expectations and overcoming all challenges in its path.
This semester, the Pride of PA Battalion already has filled its schedule with training events, completing one nearly every weekend this past month. The battalion several more slated in the second half of the semester.
For the past couple of weekends, Gannon students and faculty may have observed cadets emerging from the shadows of cool, crisp Erie mornings. Their boots laced, assault packs filled and minds mission-set, they make their way to first formation for field exercise leadership labs.
These labs provide cadets the opportunity to develop and “discover some of the fundamental characteristics that will build their future ‘officership,’ by the time they will have commissioned as 2nd lieutenants after their senior year, said Maxwell Herath, a junior Gannon cadet.
One opportunity that cadets take on consists of both day and night land navigation. During these exercises, cadets are given grid coordinates, a map, a compass, a red lens flashlight and a couple of hours to track down points in a designated patch of woods spreading over hundreds of meters.
Sometimes this includes encounters with wildlife, trudging through fallen trees and brush, overcoming mental fears of the dark and relying on terrain awareness.
Other training opportunities that have been planned and executed by senior cadets include basic rifle marksmanship (BRM); qualification with an M-4 rifle; situational training exercises (STX Lanes) such as mock recon, ambush and attack missions; and drill and ceremony.
“[The exercises] have really opened my eyes and have shown me what ROTC is all about,” said Ashley Sarlo, a freshman Gannon cadet.
As the semester continues, Pride of PA cadets will continue to train under the direction of battalion cadre and senior cadets.
Anthony Sinagoga, a sophomore Gannon cadet, said they’ll gain more experience, “responsibility, and taking the challenge of stepping up to the plate,” through combat water survival test, battalion competition, combat lifesaver lab, army physical fitness tests and many more STX lanes.
Damian Cicchinelli, a freshman cadet, and Manuel Moreno, a junior cadet, said that during and after these multiple training exercises, cadets will continue to define themselves through their “strengths and weaknesses and shall put to practice the advice from the cadets before,” them, as they continue to “support each other, functioning as one big family.”
Their schedules may be as packed with exams, projects, papers and classes as the average college students’, but the ones who bear the American flag on their right sleeve around campus “train to lead.”
As expressed by Cadet Herath, they “learn how to lead more effectively every day [they] put on the uniform, as well as how to lead without it.”