Do you know what abseiling is? I did not either, until the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) of Mercyhurst College asked me to join them for their Field Training Exercise (FTX) on April 10. As it turns out, abseiling is the same thing as rappelling in American English, and is presumably difficult for those who have not done it before.
Now, as a civilian, it is highly unlikely I will have to rappel down the side of a building or out of a helicopter – but it is significantly more likely that our men and women in uniform on the battlefield will have to, for a host of military/tactical reasons.
It is very encouraging to know that our classmates at Mercyhurst College and at Gannon University who have dedicated themselves to serving in the U.S. military are being taught these skills now, so that they will be better prepared when they leave us and join the fight overseas in the War on Terror.
In addition to rappelling, the student members of the “Pride of PA” Battalion learn strategies regarding proper assault and defensive situations in firefights. The abilities to think clearly, react quickly and efficiently work as teams are key points for the officers-in-training to understand and acquire in order to survive and protect their comrades on the battlefield. The men and women of the “Pride of PA” Battalion went about learning these strategies using Paintball markers – keeping the frenetic nature of battle while eliminating the likelihood of injury, obviously a plus for training.
I have already admitted to being a civilian. More than that, I happen to be a mildly lazy civilian, and I am immensely grateful that there are men and women willing and able to fight on behalf of me and my fellow countrymen, many of whom are probably like me – unable to wake up at 0-Dark-Thirty to actually join the ROTC battalion on their FTX.
However, there was a civilian at the FTX who was very different from me, and not just because this individual had the wherewithal to wake up and make it to the FTX. This individual distinguishes himself from me because he is Dr. Tim Downs, the Dean of Humanities from Gannon University. This demonstrates the depth of support our men and women in uniform receive from members of the administrative staff of Gannon University.
Gannon is our rival in almost every regard. But they ought not to be our rival while we support our troops, officers in training or otherwise. It is for this reason that I am thoroughly discouraged by the administration of Mercyhurst College’s seeming indifference to the “Pride of PA” Battalion, as at this point it is questionable as to whether anyone from our own administration (that means you, Dr. Gamble and Dr. Tobin) will even attend the formal dining out ceremony put on by the ROTC battalion, much less participate in an FTX.
I cannot thank enough the members of the “Pride of PA” Battalion not only for their service to our nation, but also for the opportunity to join them on their FTX, despite my inability to wake up in time. No matter what else, it is encouraging to see that the Dean of Humanities from Gannon University, dressed head to toe in his own personalized ACUs, was able to get out into the field with our ROTC students and participate in the Paintball and rappelling training, unlike some.