Photo by MIDN 3/C Ben Brewer
Written by MIDN 4/C Emily Ly
Instead of going out and partying on a Friday night, 15 Marine Option Midshipmen boarded a van and departed Boston University for Fort Devens for their third and final Field Exercise (FEX) of the year. It was also long one – Friday evening until Sunday morning.
The ride there was full of jokes and laughs. Once the van stopped, however, the midshipmen soon became “candidates.” The cadre, all OCS graduates, turned on their Sergeant Instructor personas and simulated what Officer Candidate School (OCS) would be like. Memories of freshmen indoctrination came flooding back as the candidates were being yelled at to “move faster” and “sound off louder.”
The first thing these candidates had to do was set up their tents. The sun was setting and the hike was about to kick off. This 10 miler, although lacking in hills, made it up in length. Led by Major Hritz and OIC MIDN Frayne, all candidates performed well and finished. Once they reached the campsite, it was time for bed.
When the candidates woke up the next morning at 0630, it was time to kick off Squad in the Offensive (SITO). A pace count was led by PltCmdr Candidate Schaffino, followed by a run to the site. With camouflage face paint on, for the next four and a half hours, the bulldogs, Candidates Schaffino, Noviello, Murray, King and Finn, led their fire teams through various scenarios.
When SITO was over, it was only 1230 – the day was far from over. GySgt Askew brought out six rifles and led a weapons class. Each candidate was allotted time to break apart the rifle and learn how to put it back together again.
At approximately 1400, it was drill time. GySgt Askew showed the candidates how to fall in, dress right and look locked on. Right after drill was a 3-mile run with rifles to the Endurance Course. This course tested the candidates’ abilities and durability, as they had to jump walls, climb ropes, low crawl in the sand, sprint uphill and go over logs with their feet sore and blistered.
The Leadership Reaction Course (LRC) was the next event. This event tests how well the leader overcomes failure by always trying out new ways of resolution. The candidates’ next event was to map out their points and find the distance/azimuths for night land navigation. Once the azimuths and distances were done, they headed back to the new bivouac site to set up the tents once again. This time, set up went in a smooth manner. The candidates understood that the goal was not to get their own tent together as quick as possible, but for the entire platoon to finish.
Compasses and eye protection were handed out to the pairs and once the sun had set, they set out to see if their calculations were accurate. Pair by pair, they came back and hopped into the warm van, waiting to go back to the bivouac site. The day was long and FEX III was almost over; the only thing that stood between the candidates and the trip home was an 8-hour fire watch. Each tent was assigned 1:15 hours of watch in the cold.
The candidates woke up at 0500, put their tents away and started loading all the gear back into the van. Gear accountability was pushed heavily and nothing was lost. The car ride back home soon fell silent as the exhausted candidates fell asleep. After unloading the vans and returning rifles, a hot wash was conducted to talk about the FEX – the good and the bad – with coffee and bagels provided by Major Hritz. Everyone was dismissed at 1030 with the rest of the day waiting for them.
All in all, despite the exhaustion, there were a lot of laughs shared by this tight knit group of candidates throughout the weekend and definitely many memories made.