Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A CH-47 "Chinook" rises in the sky in Mount Pleasant, Mich., headed for Camp Grayling with a chalk of CMU ROTC cadets. September 2009.

As part of an online journalism class I took in fall 2009, one of our assignments was a large multimedia project. I was embedded with a CMU United States Army Reserved Officers' Training Corp unit for a weekend.

I was armed with a camera, notepad and digital recorder.

The weekend started with an exhilarating ride on a CH-47 "Chinook" helicopter, which flew two chalks of the CMU ROTC unit to Camp Grayling, near Grayling, Mich. The drive from Mount Pleasant to Grayling is about two hours. The flight lasted 20 minutes.

The weekend-long training included room-clearing, patrol, zodiac boat and a paintball fight in a make-up village deep in the 147,000-acre training grounds. A ROTC unit from Ferris State also participated in the weekend, dubbed "FTX," or Field Training Exercise.

Days started from the barracks with a 6 a.m. wake-up, followed by a breakfast in the mess hall. Various training exercises sharpened the cadets' skills in thinking like a soldier. Some of the cadets had already completed basic training and various military training like airborne school and air assault school. Some were poised and ready for a life in the military. Some were in for the financial aid. Lastly, for some, the weekend was somewhat of a strike of a gavel, in which they realized the military life was not for them.

The instructors facilitated the weekend similar to that of a weekend of training in the Army National Guard. Some of the cadets are dual-enlisted in the ROTC program and the National Guard.

Everybody was open to media following them around. Two journalists from Central Michigan Life also went -- Connor Sheridan and Neil Blake. Connor found a great story angle into the weekend, while Neil captured it visually. FTX was the first photo assignment I did. This was what opened Pandora's box.
ROTC cadets in the "kill house" learned to move tactically through buildings, clearing staircases (left photo) and rooms (right photo).
As cadets learned proper room-clearing techniques, they went to a different "kill house" to face opposition forces placed randomly throughout the different rooms to challenge their technique.
A CH-47 crew member sits on the edge of the ramp during the ride to Camp Grayling (left photo). Cadets learned to move tactically through the woods.

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