ROTC trains cadets in effective communication, first aid

Cadets assess a simulated casualty during army training on Saturday. Eli Talbert | Army ROTC Three Rivers Battalion

Cadets assess a simulated casualty during army training on Saturday. Eli Talbert | Army ROTC Three Rivers Battalion

By Alexis Carter | Staff Writer

Michael Green trudged through thick mud Saturday afternoon, planned his cadets’ attack against the enemy and watched as they provided first aid to a soldier casualty.

On a rainy, brisk autumn day, the Army ROTC Three Rivers Battalion cadets participated in a training lab to learn skills outside a classroom setting.

Army ROTC members from Pitt and surrounding universities participated in a mandatory monthly lab taught by fellow cadets. According to Eli Talbert –– a cadet battalion public affairs officer for the Army ROTC –– the skills learned Saturday contributed to leadership experience the cadets will need after graduation from college, when they will fulfill their contractual service commitment through either active duty or service in the reserves.

After spending the morning at both a first aid and an effective communication station, cadets tested their skills during squad situational training exercises.

Green –– who is a cadet battalion training officer and a Pitt senior double majoring in psychology and sociology –– gave instructions for his cadets to execute the situational training exercise that he designed.

After receiving instructions, cadets in a nine-person squad then proceeded downhill to set up an Objective Rally Point –– a circle formation with squad leaders on the inner circle who mapped the plan of attack, with remaining squad members serving as security.

Once the plan was set, the squad moved skillfully to execute a hypothetical attack on the “enemy.” For the purpose of this exercise, the squad encountered a casualty and practiced by calling in the incident.

“They will perform first aid [and] employ body carrying techniques or a stretcher to move the casualty back to where they started. They will use the radio to call for a helicopter to pick them up,” Green said before the exercise began.

Green walked his lane and followed the squad, keeping notes and observing how they performed. Afterward, he gave constructive criticism to the cadets.

“We talk about what went well, what they should keep doing and what they should work on to get better for next time,” Green said.

Talbert, a Pitt senior triple majoring in psychology, statistics and philosophy, took photographs at the radio protocol station as cadets assembled an ASIP programmable combat radio. In addition to assembly, cadets learned how to change the battery and how the radio functions and malfunctions.

Commonly used between a squad and platoon leader, these army-green radios reach a three-mile radius and are encrypted. Radios undergo frequency-hopping to transmit frequency four times in one second –– countermeasures designed to prevent the enemy from listening in.

Basic radio etiquette and call signs are necessary when communicating with the platoon. Communication becomes extremely important, for example, when soldiers need to report an improvised explosive device or call for a medical evacuation helicopter to take people for emergency medical attention.

In the event of an explosion, soldiers must properly establish an exclusion area –– a 300 meter area around the possible IED –– secure remaining squad and report the incident.

By March, each squad will function as a platoon with 36 individuals. They will conquer bigger terrain, more advanced tactics and a more complex mission.

“[These labs] are more about learning and improving. This has no impact on their grade in ROTC. It’s developmental,” Green said.

Sergeant First Class James Henderson, a military science instructor for two years at Pitt, planned the initial design for Saturday’s lab. He helped the company commanders –– who were seniors in the Army ROTC  –– plan, prepare and look at resources and validation of the Army’s techniques. This is a six-week process strategically planned in advance.

Company commanders have one week to develop a course of action and decide how he or she plans to train the tasks based on the operation order.

“Now that we’re here, we built a set of cadets that have some subject matter expertise in each of these tasks that they validated on. It’s cadets teaching cadets, a self-learning, self-discovery process,” Henderson said.

Throughout college, students learn in multiple ways, through lecture, classroom discussion and conferences. But to develop leaders –– as is done in the Army ROTC –– training labs such as the one held Saturday teach cadets skills outside of a classroom setting.

“In the heat of the moment, experience is what is relied upon and education fills the gaps to make sure you do the right thing. That’s how the model is designed how to work,” said Henderson.

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