Idaho Army ROTC cadets participate in spring FTX

An attempt to bring a local tribal chieftain in for questioning peacefully ended in a firefight, pitting U.S. soldiers against mujahideen fighters loyal to the chieftain on Saturday.

Today’s headline from the war in Afghanistan? Not quite. The soldiers were actually a group of more than three dozen Army ROTC cadets participating in their spring field training exercise (FTX) at Camp Grizzly near Harvard, Idaho over this last weekend.

The cadets are members of the Chrisman Battalion of the University of Idaho’s Army ROTC program. While the junior-year cadet / students led their fellow students, the senior-year cadets acted as mentors and observers. The entire event was supervised by the ROTC Cadre, led by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Gardner, an artillery officer and professor of military science at the University of Idaho.

To help make the field training exercise (FTX) more realistic, the cadets trained using airsoft replicas of the M-4 carbine and the M-16 service rifles, and faced off against a group of local airsofters from Spokane Airsoft, an Inland Northwest community of airsoft enthusiasts.

Spokane Airsoft supplied the airsoft replicas to the cadets and provided a group of nearly two dozen airsoft enthusiasts from across the region who dressed up in mujahideen garb and acted as the OPFOR, or opposing force, against the cadets.

Following the training lanes on Saturday the cadets and OPFOR fought a series of pitched battles that stressed leadership and teamwork on both sides of the fight.

The only thing missing from the event was the Idaho Army National Guard, which usually participates by sending one or two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the cadets to practice conducting air assault missions in. Due to the threat of the government shutdown last week, the Idaho Army and Air National Guard suspended all training exercises this last weekend.

The three-day FTX was geared toward putting the cadets through realistic training scenarios to help better prepare them for the Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) that many of them will participate later this summer at Joint Base Lewis McChord.

Author’s disclaimer: I’m a member of Spokane Airsoft and participated as a member of the OPFOR for this event.