ROTC lab simulates warfare at local paintball center
On Friday, the University of New Hampshire Army ROTC held its biggest field training exercise of the semester at the OSG Paintball in Center Barnstead, N.H. Over 100 cadets, including some from Southern Maine, applied what they have learned throughout the semester in a simulated battle using paintballs.
Complete with trip-wires, accidental discharge, paintball guns and a tank, the battle scenario, created by the senior ROTC class, provided a challenging and always-changing scenario for the commanding juniors and their battalion of freshmen and sophomores.
The cadets were faced with three main objectives. The first was to secure a local “Paloman Village” that had been overrun with enemy forces. Once this had been done, a platoon had to move through the village to retake “Fort Apache.” The final objective was to take the last known enemy stronghold at “Hamburger Hill.”
None of the day’s objectives were simple. The cadets were continuously faced with challenges to overcome. Obstacles included an unruly reporter, local guides that could potentially be providing poor information, high-value targets and everything else the seniors and instructors threw at them.
“The scenario is very reactive,” said Lt. Amanda Ponn, a UNH ROTC recruiter. “The situation will change based on the reactions of the cadets. You can’t marry the plan.”
The scenario was high speed as paintballs flew through the air, smoke grenades went off and trip wires set off the loud bangs of the paintball grenades. According to Lt. Ponn, the atmosphere helps the cadets learn how to make decisions in chaotic situations.
Officers stressed that training is not all fun and games. According to Lt. Col. Paul Webber, a professor of military science, the reality is that some of the cadets will be deployed into active combat in the next few years. This kind of field training is invaluable for preparing the cadets for active service.
“This is not a game,” Lt. Col. Webber said. “We’re trying to train these guys using paintball as a vehicle to learn.”
Along with the cadets and the instructors, a few active military and veterans participated in the field exercise as well.
“You get better training value from paint balls,” said one ranger who participated in the exercise. “You’re actually getting hit by something. You’re putting paint down range and ducking for cover.”
This was a new experience for many of the freshmen. Most of them had never taken part in such a large-scale exercise.
“I expected a lot of action and shooting,” freshman Cadet Edmunds said.
According to Edmunds, who posted security in the “Paloman Village,” it was important to have a plan and be able to adjust to the unknown.
According to Lt. Col. Webber the cadets were able to accomplish all of their objectives with only a few snags along the way.
In past years, the exercise, a culmination of one of the Army ROTC labs, has been held in a former prison, as well as a school in the process of demolition. Helicopters have also been used in the past to transport the cadets.