As the boat neared the shore, the previously talkative midshipmen grew silent, unconsciously gripping their rifles tighter as they mentally prepared for the night ahead. Once the boat docked, it was time to move—midshipmen grabbed their packs and hurried onto dry land, trying to get their bearings in the unknown environment as they formed two columns and stepped off into the darkness.
The second field exercise of the year for the Semper Fidelis Society took place Nov. 7-8 on Peddock’s Island, located in Boston Harbor about a 30 minute boat ride from the city. Abandoned military facilities are spread across the northern half of the island, as it was used for harbor defense in the early 20th century. This was the first time SFS had used Peddock’s Island for a FEX, so while the new location presented unique challenges it was a refreshing change from Fort Devens.
The night started out with tent setup at the bivouac site. Unlike previous field exercises, the bivouac process was not disrupted by ambushes from the cadre, so it went very smoothly. Next came the biggest physical challenge of the weekend: the nine mile hike. Early on in the hike, the cadre ambushed the society and Platoon Sergeant Frayne became a “casualty”; however, 1st Squad Leader Hamilton took charge and handled the situation. Due to the small size of the island, the hike route looped around the same path several times, causing the whole experience to start to feel like a particularly intense episode of déjà vu after the fifth time hiking up the same hill. The varied terrain included hills, sand, and broken ground, presenting obstacles for the midshipmen burdened by 50-65 lb packs—several people were forced to drop out, testimony to the difficulty of the hike. However, after being taken care of by the corpsman, they rejoined the group and everyone finished the hike together.
Following the hike, the midshipmen spent two hours working on their night land navigation skills, using a compass to navigate to different points in the woods. Finally, around 0150 they returned to the bivouac site for a much needed few hours of sleep outside under the stars. Tent pairs took turns standing watch, rotating until reveille at 0530. In the chilly predawn darkness, the midshipmen quickly packed up the tents and gear and moved it to the dock, then practiced close-order drill as the sun rose.
Then came the final training evolution of the weekend: squad in the offensive, or SITO. This was specifically aimed at the bulldogs, who each assumed the role of squad leader for two missions and were evaluated on their performance. Missions varied from basic assaults on an objective to security patrols to casualty evacuations. The cadre made sure to keep things interesting by ambushing the squad periodically, including an attack from a moving vehicle. Quick reactions and decisions were key as bulldogs faced the challenge of managing the entire squad. The 3/c also had the opportunity to step up during SITO, acting as fire team leaders for several missions and getting practice in briefing five paragraph orders.
After four hours of SITO, the midshipmen were pleased to find that the final mission took them to a barbecue prepared by the staff, which was a significant improvement over MREs. The society then conducted a hot wash to discuss the FEX and lessons learned, and finally boarded the boat to return to Boston. On the boat ride home, the midshipmen who didn’t immediately fall asleep were treated to a demonstration by the corpsman on how to apply a tourniquet. Finally, they returned to Ashford Supply to clean rifles and return gear. Tired and sore, but feeling accomplished, the members of SFS departed for home, confident that the weekend had been a success in terms of gaining both valuable training and new Facebook profile pictures.
Written by Midn 2/c Pushaw