While most students were still tightly wrapped up against the below freezing temperatures at 0500 on Saturday, October 17, twelve midshipmen were wide awake packing up their campsite. “You all need to be moving faster!” shouted Gunnery Sergeant Harrison, the assistant Marine Officer Instructor for the unit. They hurried to put away their tents and sleeping kits so they could continue with the day’s exercises. The midshipmen were conducting their annual Fall Field Exercises, or FEX, where they learned crucial skills that they will apply to their future in the Marine Corps.
FEX began with a ruck (hike with pack) to the Pammel YMCA Woods north of campus. After practicing land navigation in both day and night conditions, the midshipmen set up their bivouac (camp) for the night. Temperatures dipped to below freezing, but the future Marine Corps officers weren’t fazed. “The cold was actually good for training,” said midshipman 2nd class Dillon Hansen. “It provided amplification to the challenge; everything is more difficult when it’s cold.”
The next morning, the midshipmen began small unit leadership evaluation (SULE) missions in fire teams and as a squad. They worked to complete tasks such as neutralizing an enemy or rescuing wounded, while Navy-option midshipmen from the battalion simulated enemy aggressors. “This type of stuff is what we’ll be seeing at Officer Candidate School (OCS), so it was a great opportunity for me to prepare,” said MIDN Hansen. “It was also important to expose the freshman to their first Marine Corps training.”
For freshman and midshipman 4th class Brian Bavlsik, the first time in the field was challenging, but rewarding. “It was tough not having time for chow, or any time set aside for eating,” he said. “I really learned a lot of good things though, skills that I can directly apply to OCS. Overall it was a great experience, probably my favorite thing I’ve done with the unit so far.”
After a four and a half mile hike back to the armory, the midshipmen reflected on what they learned. Some of the freshmen began to understand that the most important skills are ones learned outside the classroom, as they prepare themselves for a future in the Marine Corps.