Leadership Development and Assessment Course

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM)

Community Leaders and Educators Visit (CLE)
July 16-17, 2012

Photos (except as credited), text, and webpage design by Roscoe B. Stephenson, III

This year I had the privilege to attend the LDAC Community Leaders and Educators Visit at Joint Base Lewis McChord July 16-17, 2012. I do not have a military background, so I knew the visit would be most helpful and informative for me. Five VMI faculty and administrators attended. Here is the cast of characters:

Col. H. Francis Bush, EC/BU Col. John A. Brodie, Band Cpt. Cera Wadsworth, Institute Counseling Deanne L. Moosman, Pt. Time Faculty, Biology Roscoe Stephenson, Pt. Time Faculty, EC/BU

We had very nice and comfortable accommodations at the Red Lion Hotel, Olympia, Washington (above), as compared to the cadets, who spent nearly a month in their tent city (below).

The evening of our arrival, four of us walked from our hotel into the downtown area of Olympia. We had dinner at a nice restaurant on the waterfront and had the pleasure to see a bald eagle fly over our path. Our walk gave a nice view of the Washington State Capitol.

This was a learning experience. Each morning we were briefed on various aspects of ROTC training, the objects of LDAC, and our planned activities of the day.

After breakfast and our briefing, we loaded into 4 buses for transport into and around JBLM. Briefings continued over the bus intercom.

Our first activity was to learn about U.S. weapons. This involved a display of various fighting vehicles, some hands-on small arms experience, and a live fire demonstration.

M2A3 Bradley M1026 Scout HMMWV M1A1 "Abrams" Main Battle Tank 155mm Self-propelled Howitzer

We were allowed to climb over and enter the vehicles. Army personnel were on hand to explain the operation and capabilities. For some reason they wouldn't let us start them up and drive them.

NOTE: The next two photos by John Brodie.

Words and pictures won't do justice to the live fire exercise. It was a simulation of an IED attack on a convoy, resulting in casualties and a disabled vehicle. All of this took place on a broad expanse extending in front of our viewing stands. We took our seats, and it began with an explanation of the objects of the exercise and what we should expect to see. We listened to all the radio traffic as the battle went on.

The convoy enters the scene to our far right.

The IED attack.

Cadets fan out and begin firing their weapons at enemy positions.

A mortar crew in action.

Artillery is called into action. First a couple of ranging shots, then they fire for effect.

Tending to the casualties.

Amid the din of battle, help arrives. There is a re-supply of ammunition, evacuation of casualties, and salvage of the truck. No let-up in the firing.

In the picture above you see that a smoke charge has been placed to mark the enemy's strong position. This is done in preparation for air support. Next a pair of OH-58 Kiowa helicopters dive in to strafe the position with automatic cannon fire and volleys of missles. The noise is deafening.

After the live fire demonstration we were invited to fire some of the small arms. We could choose among the M-4 Carbine, the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon ("SAW"); the M203 grenade launcher; and the M136 AT4. Detailed instruction preceded.

General weapons safety instruction. "Keep the sharp end pointed down range. . ."

Instruction for the M-4.

Instruction for the SAW.

Firing the SAW.

Col. Bush fires an M203. (Only simulators were sent downrange.) Col. Brodie fires an AT4. (Only simulators were sent downrange.)

The foregoing summarizes the excitement of our first morning.

From the live fire area we were taken to the area used for Cultural Awareness training. There we were treated to an MRE lunch which we ate while hearing a presentation on cultural awareness. This is an important topic for today's army officer. I have no doubt there are times when our officers feel they have been mis-classified from the Department of Defense to the State Department, given the modern-day practice of "nation building."

Lunch is served. An MRE and a bottle of water.

We take our seats.

An informative presentation.

Meanwhile, cadet training goes on around us. We were welcome to wander around, watch and listen.

"Insurgents" before the exercise.

Cadets demonstrate their understanding.

How do you handle the ubiquitous press?

Following our cultural awareness training we had an extensive bus tour of JBLM with descriptive explanations of the various facilities. The base is truly a self-contained city. Our bus ride ended at the rappelling station where we all had the opportunity to try our courage and skill.

After our fun on the ropes we went to the "Slide for Life", a zip line over water.

The tower, and our ladies in line.

Cpt. Wadsworth takes a plunge.

Followed by Ms. Moorman.

A relaxing dinner greeted us when we got back to the hotel. It had been a full day!

Nevertheless, we patiently enjoyed the evening lecture after dinner.

After dinner we were off to bed. Those of us from the East Coast were suffering from jet lag and quite ready for some sleep. Tuesday morning would bring a new day of activity.

Sure enough, we assembled for breakfast Tuesday at 06:30. We got our briefing for the day, and off we went to watch two LDAC regiments graduate from the Warrier Forge Program.

The JBLM parade field lies under the silent and ancient watch of Mt. Ranier. We had a wonderful view of the volcano that morning.

The cadet regiments form up with the mountain as a backdrop.

Parade onto the field.

A salute.

Commissioning of those who had completed their ROTC program.

For cadets of these regiments, LDAC is over. The standard is furled.

Our CLE visit wasn't over, though. Another MRE lunch followed. Yummy!

We dined while being lectured on over land navigation - obviously an essential skill for the soldier.

Our next stop was first aid instruction. We heard a short presentation on the advances in battlefield first aid. Then we walked around to observe training.

All the while we were blessed with stunning natural beauty all around.

The final activity involved group leadership training. Twelve of our members were selected to participate while the rest watched. VMI was ably represented by Col. Bush.

The mission was to cross a raging river using only equipment on hand; to move a drum of fuel; and to complete the crossing with all weapons and equipment. All must be accomplished in a limited amount of time.

Briefing for the mission.

And the mission is on. The two standing in the "raging river" are there only to prevent injuries from falling. Fortunately their services weren't needed.

Mission accomplished!!!

To cap off our visit we had a most interesting presentation following a splendid dinner Tuesday evening. Major General Jefforey A. Smith is the commanding general over the U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox. Gen. Smith made us aware of the profound impact the ROTC program has on the officer corps of the Army. Beyond that impact, we also learned of the effect the Junior ROTC program has on fostering secondary education and preventing delinquency. Our eyes were opened to the fact that the ROTC program is the single largest source of college scholarship funds in the nation. It was quite an experience to hear Gen. Smith's remarks. We owe a debt of gratitude for his dedication and for his willingness to address our group so far from Ft. Knox.

Major General Smith.

Wednesday brought another full day of travel. Flying out of Seattle we had a fine parting view of Mt. Ranier.

Finally, this spectacular view also taken from the airplane window by Cera Wadsworth.

We had a fruitful and informative trip. I can safely say we all left with an even deeper appreciation of our armed services and the people who selflessly serve. I am quite thankful to have been selected to attend.

Roscoe B. Stephenson, III
251 W. Riverside St.
Covington, VA 24426

July 20, 2012