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College of Education and Professional Studies

CWU Army ROTC cadets back from successful weekend training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

CWU cadet leave helicopter at trainingA battalion of CWU Army ROTC cadets are back in Ellensburg following a rigorous four-day spring field training exercise (FTX).

“It was great training; all objectives were met,” said an obviously pleased Major Bonnie Kovatch, CWU’s Army ROTC detachment commander.

Typically, the FTX has taken place at the Yakima Training Center. But it was unavailable this year because of the needs of operational Army units. Fortunately, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) had available space, which actually worked out better for the CWU cadets.

Some of the CWU cadets involved in training“As compared to the desert scenario at the Yakima Training Center, one of the benefits of being at Joint Base Lewis-McChord was that it gave us an opportunity to more closely replicate the environment that our [junior] cadets will see during their summer training at Fort Knox, Kentucky,” noted Kovatch. “The terrain was extremely challenging; many cadets had never ‘broken brush’ before, and the weather did not always cooperate. That forced them to rely on their mental toughness and use all of the gear and equipment they brought.” 

Among the cadets was junior Justin Lester from Chewelah, who was participating in his third spring FTX, but his first at JBLM.

“It’s a whole different animal to go out into the field and to live out of your pack for a couple of days,” he said. “We ate MREs (meals ready to eat), there wasn’t any hot food, we were always on the move, always anticipating that something might happen. It’s just an entirely different experience from what you’d expect being a college student.” 

The Army National Training Center scenario the cadets faced involved American troops being called in to aid an allied nation in overcoming a rogue force. The exercise began Thursday when the cadets were flown to the training site by three Washington Army National Guard helicopters.

Sophomore Maria Lubag, from Lacey, was on her first spring field training exercise, of which the helicopter trip had additional significance.  

“In the Army, I see myself going aviation,” she said. “I had never gotten into a Blackhawk, or any type of military aircraft [before].” 

To make the training more realistic, the cadets were issued all of their equipment before they got to JBLM, Kovatch explained.

“They were flying in that helicopter just as they would if they had been deployed in a real-world environment,” she continued. “They had their pack on their lap, weapon between their legs, Kevlar on their head, ear pro in their ears. They were in the scenario by the time we got on that bird. The thrill of the aviation aspect came through even during the infill (loading) and exfill (unloading) of the event. It motivated everyone—myself included.” 

During the training, the rogue force opposing the CWU Army cadets was partially comprised by their peer cadets from the university’s Air Force ROTC program.

“The 18 participating Air Force Cadets were fantastic,” Kovatch noted. “They love to volunteer to help us with our training. They were deliberate in all of their engagements with the Army cadets and provided valuable feedback on where they could improve in their tactical movements, particularly sight and noise discipline.”

CWU cadet looking through rifle scopeThe four-day training, which was entirely planned by CWU senior Army ROTC cadets over the last five months, evaluated cadets on the lessons, tactics, and theory they have learned throughout the year in the classroom and the leadership labs held around campus during the year were put into practice.

“I’m confident the MS IVs (seniors) are ready to commission and lead soldiers,” Kovatch stated. “I know the MS IIIs (juniors) will perform well at Cadet Summer Training.  And it’s apparent the underclassmen pushed themselves beyond their preconceived limits and grew both as individuals and as a team. The cadets are going to be talking about the Spring 2019 FTX for years!”

Kovatch noted that much of her cadets’ success is due to the academic rigor, along with the physical demands, of the award-winning military science minor offered by CWU. The just completed training served as a capstone for graduating seniors who will receive their Central degrees and second lieutenant commissioning just weeks from now.

It’s been a busy year for the Central cadets. They have also trained alongside the 1st Special Forces Group and Second Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, which are both recognized as elite Army operational forces. After that training, the CWU cadets indicated they saw active-duty troops doing exactly what was being taught in the university classroom.

“For me, those comments just solidified that we have a Class A cadre and that we are stewards of the profession, that we are training to standard and doctrine, and that we are building resilience and confidence into our cadets so that they do step out into the operational force as better lieutenants,” Kovatch added.

Lester concurred, adding, “When you are in this type of organization it’s, more or less, a family. And I have really felt that, since day one, that it’s an organization that can support and nurture you, regardless of your goals, and it’s something you can be part of that’s bigger than yourself.” 

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,

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