Battling the cold and snowy winter of Erie has always been a major challenge for many individuals residing in and around the city. Digging out cars, finding driveways with the help of a shovel and braving the below-freezing wind became common practice since October.
As for the Pride of PA Army ROTC Battalion – consisting of Gannon University, Mercyhurst University and Penn State Behrend – the winter conditions brought challenges that impacted the cadets’ mentality and motivation.
But, in the end, meeting that opposition made them stronger.
Once April rolled around, those harsh conditions ceased, and the battalion hit the field for its annual Joint Field Training Exercise (JFTX) held in the Allegany Forest.
Graced with three days of cloudless, 70-degree weather, the Pride of PA Battalion joined together with Niagara University, Canisius College, SUNY Brockport and St. Bonaventure University cadets to conduct Situational Tactical Exercises (STX), day and night land navigation, platoon operations, Garrison operations, rappelling, paintball and drill and ceremony.
Reyna Palanca, a Military Science Level III cadet and nursing major, said she appreciated the joint operations.
“Joining together with other schools is a great way to teach us how to lead and follow people we [had] better know,” Palanca said.
As cadets progressed through the three-day training event, MSL III cadets (juniors) along with selected MSL IIs (sophomores) and I’s (freshmen) climbed the hills of the Allegany Forest, planning and executing missions during STX and platoon operations.
MSL III cadets executed the roles of platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, squad leaders and team leaders, while MSL II and I cadets acted as squad members, learning what their future holds for them.
David Marshall, an MSL II cadet and biology major, said that being combined with upperclassmen was beneficial for him.
“I’ve never had any prior STX knowledge before the JFTX,” he said, “and I came out with a basic understanding of how the planning and execution is supposed to be performed.”
Five of the 16 cadets earned an overall rating of “excellent,” and 10 received a rating of “satisfactory.”
While MSL III and selected MSL II and I cadets pushed through the thick mud and treacherous landscape, the remaining MSL II and I cadets from each school battled through paintball fire, scaled a repel tower and learned the Army tradition of drill and ceremony.
Ashley Sarlo, an MSL I cadet and nursing major, said that the JFTX was not only worthwhile, but also reaffirmed her commitment to ROTC.
“The JFTX was a great learning experience that improved my skills and made me look to the future,” Sarlo said. “I hope to permanently contract into the program and continue with ROTC.”
Upon completion of the cadet training events, cadets concluded the weekend with both day and night land navigation, during which they sought out points with a map, compass and red-lens flashlight. Many cadets found all of their points, and others improved upon prior finish times.
Palance said that the Pride of PA Battalion has created a sense of cohesiveness with each other.
“Any training thrown at us we all have been able to get through together as a whole,” Palanca said.
Christopher Langford, an MSL III history major, said that he feels ready for what’s to come.
“I am more prepared for our summer assessment course than I have been all year.”