Several American soldiers had been captured and were being held prisoner under the watchful eye of a high-value enemy target at a secure location deep within the heavy woods at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
It was up to the more than 40 junior ROTC cadets from George Mason University’s Patriot Battalion to quietly move into position before assaulting the compound, securing the release of their fellow service members and neutralizing the high-value target. Boarding the two U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters that landed on West Campus on Thursday, April 15, to ferry them to the exercise, the cadets executed a fully simulated military operation.
Lt. Col. Michael Nelson, a professor of military science and the senior ranking member of the attachment, played the role of the high-value target overseeing the captured American soldiers.
The day marked a fitting end to what has been a busy close to the year for Mason’s Patriot Battalion, which also includes cadets from Northern Virginia Community College, the University of Mary Washington and Marymount University. The helicopter ride was the first for most of the cadets.
“We get to do the fun stuff at the end of the year,” said Cadet Connor Swann, a junior government and international politics major from Galena, Ohio. “We’re taking everything we’ve learned so far and applying it now.”
Sarah Rodriguez, a junior government and international politics major from Queens, New York, hopes to fly after graduating and receiving her commission into the U.S. Army, so she was eagerly awaiting the helicopter ride ever since she learned about it six weeks ago.
“I’ve been counting down the days,” she said.
The exercise was the most recent one taking the cadets out into the field. Last month, they joined cadets from Georgetown University and Howard University for a few days of training at Quantico.
Most of the Mason cadets will spend the bulk of their summer doing additional training, including the U.S. Army’s ROTC Advanced Camp at Fort Knox in Tennessee, a five-week event designed to assess each cadet’s ability to demonstrate proficiency in basic officer leadership tasks. It is the most significant training and evaluation event in ROTC.
“I’ve always wanted to fly and fly in the military,” Rodriguez said.