Flying high

By By Natalie Hale

By Natalie Hale

Sunlight glints off the windshields of two Blackhawk helicopters as they speed through the open valley-the noses of the great beasts tipped at a 45-degree angle to the ground.

“You want to know how you can tell someone is a pilot?” asked Mike Lyon, a battalion commander at Camp Williams. “They will tell you in the first 10 minutes.”

As the dark, whale-shaped helicopters land, cadets from the U, Brigham Young University and Weber State University Reserve Officer Training Corps programs prepare to load.

It is 7:30 a.m., and most have been awake for hours at this point as part of spring training exercises.

Getting helicopters for training wasn’t easy-heavy deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to high costs of operation ($1,000 per hour) make the experience special for cadets, said Kyle Frazer, a political science major.

The ROTC program does leadership training twice a year at Camp Williams-an important part of gaining experience in preparation for field combat, said Rachel Evans, a senior in sociology.

As the cadets load, the deafening sound of the helicopters’ propellers echoes off the surrounding hills and carry to different parts of the camp.

After being dropped in a small valley, the groups separate to practice field tactics. Many of the tactics, like ambushing, are from the Vietnam era but are still taught because of their effectiveness.

“The tactics are outdated?but they have been tried and tested and are a fantastic base for soldier training,” Lyon said.

Zachary Cottam, a sophomore in computer science, said that while he could work for a private computing company, he prefers the incentives the Army offers-scholarships, money for textbooks and monthly stipends.

After Cottam loads a paintball gun in preparation for a simulated ambush, he pulls a plastic identification card covered in green duct tape out of one of his pockets. Ripping off a small piece, Cottam tapes down the top of his ammunition holder to make sure it won’t open in combat.

He then shares his tape and his idea with the rest of his group because that was how he learned the tactic.

“You need to observe what others do, and if they have good ideas, use them,” Cottam said.

Filing though the terrain, the group ducks behind trees and bushes, looking for the target. The only sounds are those of their Army issued black leather boots’ soles against the shale.

Covertly, they maneuver toward their target. Then, in a burst of fire, the cadets take out their targets before fire can be returned.

The threat of death is real for many of the cadets.

When they sign up for the program, each agrees to spend a certain amount of time on active duty. With the country deploying soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq, chances that they will see combat are slightly higher than they would have been in the past.

Evans, who will graduate in May, was commissioned to report days after graduation and remain on active duty for four years.

“The objective is to support the national military,” said Tyler Smith, an organizer of the camp. “This training is for leadership; we have to teach them to make decisions and how to communicate.”