ROTC spends weekend in Wisconsin

By Nick LeDonne

The cold September night temperatures dropped down into the 40s, so low that most people would be begging for their warm beds, but not the cadets of NIU’s ROTC.

Over 60 NIU ROTC cadets took off in a Chinook helicopter Friday afternoon from the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport to test their skills for the weekend at Fort McCoy, Wis.

“It’s a lot of self-discovery,” said Senior Cadet Brandon Chong.

The events held over the weekend were weapons training, marksmanship and day and night land navigation.

“Marksmanship and land navigation are the two individual skill sets we will look at,” said Lieutenant Colonel Steve Ashpes.

Throughout the weekend, there was no complaining or whining.

“This is an opportunity for them to push their limits to see what’s available to them,” said Cadet Michael Smith.

From waking up at 6 a.m. to sleeping in near freezing temperatures, cadets were pushed to the edge like they’ve never been pushed before.

“Most haven’t been out in the woods over night,” Smith said.

Cadets had to ‘zero their weapons,’ which involves shooting a target 50 feet away and adjusting their sight to their specific taste. After zeroing their weapons, the cadets would head over to qualification to shoot targets ranging from 50 to 350 feet away. In order to qualify, the cadets had to hit 24 out of 40 targets.

“For a lot of students who haven’t grown up around any kind of firearms to actually be out here and fire a military weapon system, I think that’s actually their biggest kick when there out here,” LTC. Ashpes said.

The qualifying was a highlight of the weekend for many cadets.

“Best part was seeing everyone’s faces after they just went off the firing range,” said Jennifer Stachura, cadet and senior nursing major.

The most difficult part of the weekend for most cadets was the night land navigation. The land navigation includes walking through the forest with a compass and map in order to find their specific checkpoints. Cadets would do this once in the daylight and once during the night. When asked what the most difficult part of the weekend was, Sophomore Cadet David Kneifel said night land navigation was the most challenging.

“[Night land navigation] tests all the skills you learned in class,” Kneifel said.