For a lot of Fresno State students, a weekend during finals season can be an important reprieve to catch up on homework, study or socialize with friends.
But for cadets of Fresno State’s Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC), this past weekend was defined by firearm training, gaining leadership skills and camaraderie.
“We want to teach cadets how to be adaptive and creative,” Senior Cadet Angelia DeBenedetti said. “There’s a lot of emphasis on being a leader.”
Called a skilled training exercise, 50 of Fresno State’s 56 ROTC cadets traveled to Camp San Luis Obispo to participate in three events designed by the group’s senior members to foster the skills necessary to become a military officer.
DeBenedetti, a student in Fresno State’s nursing program, is in her third year with ROTC and said that the purpose of the weekend was about strengthening what she called the diverse military “family.”
“I think people often have this idea that if you’re in the Army ROTC you’re just trained to go to war,” DeBenedetti said. “And that’s nothing that our program is about. I’m a nurse. There’s engineers, criminology majors … We have people of every race, gender and background.”
Cadets of all four ranks from ROTC, designated MSI or (freshman cadet) through MSIV (or senior cadet), took part in the event that was marked by heavy rain.
“You’ve got to muster it up and take on the rain,” DeBenedetti said. “Even if it affects how you train.”
The first event, basic rifle marksmanship, focused on the elements of shooting and allowed cadets to practice firing an Army-designated standard M16 rifle — some for their very first time.
“For a lot of cadets it’s their first time firing a weapon,” DeBenedetti said. “So they have to overcome their fears or apprehensions.”
“It was my first time with that weapon,” Freshman Cadet Anthony Mosqueda, 18, said. “It was an adrenaline rush.”
Cadets were given the opportunity to qualify in basic training with the weapon, which required hitting 23 out of 40 shots.
“I only hit 20,” Mosqueda said. “So I didn’t qualify. But hey, it was my first time so, I did alright.”
Land navigation, the weekend’s second event, honed cadet skills in map reading and route planning by giving them specific points on a map to locate with only a compass, even at night.
“Our junior cadets have to go out and do it alone,” DeBenedetti said. “This helps them gain confidence in trusting their ability to survive.”
The final event, a field leader’s reaction course, gave cadets missions such as developing a plan to cross a bridge theoretically destroyed by a nuclear weapon.
“Their mission is to develop a plan and make it work while leading others,” DeBenedetti said. “It’s tough for them sometimes because getting others to follow your orders in a changing environment can be nerve-wracking.”
Overall, the weekend was described as a success.
“Even with the rain it was still fun to do the activities,” 22-year-old Junior Cadet Grace Sanjurjo said. “The most important thing about it was building our unit cohesion, and we definitely did that.”