Last Wednesday morning, Oct. 20, I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m.
This would usually be an odd occurrence for me, as I have yet to see 4:30 a.m. unless I refuse to sleep the night before.
However, with the allowance of the Pride of PA ROTC Battalion, I journeyed to Penn State Behrend to witness their Combat Water Survival Test (CWST).
Each cadet had to undergo the training, which took place in five distinct parts – a 10-minute swim, five minutes of treading water, a 15-meter swim with a rifle, an equipment release drill and a three-meter blindfolded drop while holding a rifle.
This training also occurred in nearly full uniform, each cadet wearing his or her Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs). We see these camouflage uniforms each week when our cadets have their Military Science courses on campus; however, on this morning, the boots were left in the pool’s locker room.
First up was the 10-minute unassisted swim in the deep end of the pool. Wearing tennis shoes as well as their ACUs, each cadet weighed far more than they normally would in the water. A short 10-minute break followed, as their next task was explained to them – the 5-minute water tread.
Simply watching the clock tick down slowly at the side of the pool as the cadets continued to float in the water made me tired – and I was just standing there!
And these were the easier exercises.
The cadets also had to swim while holding a dummy M-16 rifle above the water, proving that they would be able to keep their firearm operational in a combat scenario. The men and women of the Pride of PA Battalion were then tossed into the pool while wearing an ammunition belt along with another rifle – their task was to escape the heavy weight of the supply belt and make it to the water’s surface.
Finally, (and most dramatically) the cadets were thrown off a high diving board blindfolded while wearing the ammunition belt – it had a full canteen and other accoutrement – and carrying an M-16.
It takes a serious degree of dedication to wake up so early in the morning while still dealing with college classes every day. This is only the beginning of the journey for the men and women of the Pride of PA Reserved Officer Training Corp Battalion.
These are the individuals that have dedicated themselves to fighting America’s wars – fighting for you and me.
During the four years I have been at Mercyhurst College, I have had friends in the ROTC Battalion, and this experience was yet another reminder of how admirable their chosen vocation is. It is an honor to know these men and women, even before they have had the opportunity to deploy.
“High-speed” is considered a compliment to members of the ROTC Battalion, and it is obvious to me that it is applicable to the cadets that I saw last Wednesday morning.