Panther Battalion trains for Army future

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Rolling across the ground, spinning against the dirt, various parts of a Humvee fell from the turned-over vehicle, littering the ground around cadets of Eastern’s Panther Battalion.

This scenario played out in one of the simulators used during the Panther Battalion’s Fall Field Training Exercise from Thursday until Sunday.

FTX is done twice a year, once in spring and once in fall.  These exercises allow a cadet to practice taught skills in a tactical environment.

During the field training exercise at Marseilles Training Center, new cadets, MS1s, of the Panther Battalion were given new skills to help them in the future as they train toward becoming commissioned officers in the United States Army.

And for veteran members of the group, MS2s-MS4s, it was an opportunity to keep their skills fresh.

Among the skills covered for the cadets were map and compass basics, how to properly call for a 9-line medevac, virtual marksmanship and how to properly evacuate from a rolled-over Humvee.

Map, protractor and compass skills were taught the first morning as the platoons split up into groups.

Their skills were put to the test in an afternoon daytime land navigation exercise as points were given and they had to go out and find them.

Nighttime land navigation began as soon as the sun went down.

Cadets brought out their red flashlights so they would not ruin their night vision in an attempt to complete the course within the given time frame.

Lt. Col. Eric Savickas, the department chair of military science and the leader of the ROTC program, thought the day’s training went really well.

“The whole point of us going out there and doing it was to get a common understanding for the cadets and a baseline to build off of,” he said.  “So that’s why we started this morning with the classes, just to get the basics understood by everybody before we moved into executing an actual land navigation course.”

Cadet Phillip Arnold, an MS3, said he liked how the new cadets performed.

“For the new cadets they were being tasked with something they’re usually not,” Arnold said.  “And for the older cadets, we’re just getting back into it.  We’re all progressing, everyday with the training we get.”

A course consisting of 12 different obstacles meant to build team cohesion and confidence called the Confidence Course was also used for training.

Fatigue occurred throughout the morning but the cadets persevered throughout it all.

Cadet Antonio Romo, who participated in the Confidence Course said, “I’m scared of heights.  I like overcoming my fears, that’s the best way of doing it, going through the course, taking it without a grain of salt and keep moving on.”

There were shots echoing off walls at a virtual reality simulator.

The cadets simulated moving targets and differentiating between friend and foe.

The Battalion was also treated to a special guest during the Confidence Course.  Brig. Gen. (one star) Johnny Miller, the assistant adjunct general – army, Illinois National Guard, paid a surprise visit to the cadets and offered words of encouragement to the battalion.

“The soldiers, the cadets out there, they’re definitely challenging each other to do better, motivating each other, and that’s what you want to see from a team, so they’re definitely working hard as a team and the soldiers coming together to try to accomplish the mission, and that’s what you want in any soldier,” Miller said.

Jason Howell can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]