Dining In 2015

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Seneca Battalion Cadre all drink from the Grog during Dining In 2015.

Every year towards the end of the fall semester, Seneca Battalion holds a formal dinner on a Friday night geared towards celebrating Army Tradition and enjoying the camaraderie between soldiers. Known as Dining In, this tradition dates back to the first days of the Army. Members attending the mess must abide by a certain set of rules, overseen by Mr. Vice, an MSIV. Cadre members as well as cadets in Battalion leadership sit at the head table and each class sits together.

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The Grog, after every MS IV had added their signature ingredient

Once the mess was declared open, the punch bowl ceremony was conducted by MS I cadets. A different cadet added each ingredient to the punch, giving a short speech as to the significance of that ingredient. Every person in the mess got to taste the punch before the MS IV’s added their contributions – anything edible, with a reasonable explanation, was allowed to be mixed into the punch to create a concoction so foul that the serving staff would not venture near it. This sludge is known as the Grog, and it is possibly the foulest liquid that one will drink in the Army.

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The Grog, after every MS IV had added their signature ingredient

The rules of the mess are printed and placed on every table in the mess; once the mess is declared open, the rules are all-encompassing. Mr. Vice is solely responsible for ensuring all order and discipline are maintained. If these rules are broken, Mr Vice will decide the punishment – which is drinking a canteen cup full of the Grog.

After the Grog is made, dinner is served, during which all proper decorum must also be maintained. After Dinner and deserts, the skits are presented.

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CDT Barnhart prepares to present the MSIV skit

Seneca Battalion has put its own spin on the tradition and has every MS class make a skit to present to the rest of the mess. In recent years these skits have turned into videos for which the rules are simple; members of the Battalion may only make fun of those higher than themselves. For example, MS I cadets can make fun of MS II, MS III, MS IV cadets and cadre. These skits are a source of hilarity and very important boost in morale that are often talked about for the rest of the semester.

The night lasted roughly four hours and was closed as it had begun. Many cadets left laughing at the skits they had witnessed, enjoying their fellow cadets’ interpretations of themselves.

With the final major event of the semester now complete, cadets will focus on their studies, preparing for final exams and the holidays.

A full set of pictures from Dining In 2015 can be found on this blog.

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Lab Week 10 – Radio Communications/Cold Weather Survival

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This week Seneca Battalion took a break from the battle drills and focused on classroom instruction.

Splitting into three different sections the battalion spent time learning how to program and send radio transmisions on the PRC-119 radio, learned proper radio etiquette and practiced calling in MEDEVAC support, and learned cold weather survival techniques.

Cadets took turns assembling and programming the radios, then sending 9-line MEDEVAC requests to a MS III cadet in another location to simulate actually calling for a MEDEVAC in the real world.  Once cadets completed the radio portion they moved onto the cold weather portion, which was classroom session that taught the basics of survival and preparation in the cold weather.

Seneca Battalion looks forward to Dining In, a formal dinner in which the Battalion celebrates Army traditions and enjoys skits put on by each MS class.

Lab Week 9 – Ambush

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CDT Farley provides flank security while other cadets move into position for an ambush.

Seneca Battalion took to the woods this week to practice the art of the ambush.

There are several types of ambushes applicable to the myriad of tactical situations that a platoon can find itself in; the three taught at the lab were linear, L-shaped, and V-shaped ambushes.  All three are primarily focused on attacking roads that enemy forces use as high-speed avenues of approach and egress on the battlefield.

The linear ambush is a single formation of soldiers parallel with the road; it is the fastest and simplest type of ambush to set up.  Often it is used along a long, straight road where there is a ditch or some other form of cover that allows the unit to hide nearby.  An L Shaped ambush is used at a sharp bend in the road, where the unit can open fire and assault from two different angles.  A V-shaped ambush is used when there is no cover next to the road and soldiers have to lay in concealment farther out, firing from a greater range at an angle which prevents friendly fire.

A diagram displaying a platoon linear ambush.
A diagram displaying a platoon linear ambush.

While there are many different formations for an ambush, the concept is the same.  The intent of an ambush, whether it is executed at the squad or platoon level, is to catch the enemy off guard and destroy them as quickly as possible.  Once the unit is at the Objective Rally Point, or ORP, the squad or platoon leader will move out with a small security detachment and execute a leader’s recon on the ambush area, deciding the type of ambush that the unit will perform.  The leader will place security on the flanks and bring the rest of the unit up, placing them evenly between the flank security teams to focus fire on a particular point, the kill zone.  Once the soldiers are in place the leader will set up a mass-casualty producing weapon, such as a Claymore anti-personnel mine, M-240B machine gun or AT-4 rocket launcher.

Once the enemy has entered the kill zone the leader will initiate the ambush with that mass-casualty producing weapon and start what is known as the “mad minute” – where the entire unit opens fire on the enemy in the kill zone for several seconds until they are all down.  Then the unit will move onto the road and quickly secure the area, collect enemy weapons and intelligence, call up to higher command, and destroy the enemy weapons in place as they move off of the objective.

Seneca Battalion broke into squads and practiced executing these ambushes in the woods behind St. Bonaventure, using MS II cadets as squad leaders in an effort to prepare them to be leaders for the next two years as well as to prepare them to lead their own tactical lanes at Leadership Training Exercises in the future.

Lab Week 8 – Reconnaissance

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CDT’s Sourbeer and Kelly describe the proper recon procedure to a MSII cadet while he lays in security during the Recon lab.

Reconnaissance is one of the most important tools that a commander has while planning an operation.  Whether on the battlefield or in garrison, knowing the area of operations before a mission is set to commence can mean the difference between victory and defeat.  The leader’s recon is a mainstay of US Army squad and platoon level tactics, done in the hours or even minutes before an attack, whereas a route, zone, or area recon is a tasking in and of itself for a squad or platoon on the ground in a combat zone.

Seneca Battalion cadets learned the route/zone/area recon techniques this past week, first in a classroom session and then in a training exercise in the woods.  While all of them experienced a recon lane at the Battalion’s LTX, many of the younger MSI and II cadets stayed in security while MS III cadets performed the actual recon.  This lab was meant to correct that and show the younger cadets the methods of how to conduct the recon once they’ve left the security of the rest of their squad.

The Battalion split into three squads, all laying in security while taking turns going out on the recon.  The two squads that remained received supplemental training covering a wide variety of topics.  As each squad came back their turn they reported their findings to a MSIV.

Once all of the squads came back the cadets performed an After Action Review and were dismissed.

If you have any questions about ROTC at St. Bonaventure, please contact Mr. Jared Kausner at JKAUSNER@sbu.edu

Seneca BN conducts yearly  Leadership Training Exercise

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Once a semester, ROTC battalions spend a weekend in the field perfecting leadership and soldier skills they learn in their weekly labs.  These events are called LTX’s, or Leadership Training Exercises, and are critical in a cadet’s development both as a leader and a soldier.

Seneca Battalion spent the weekend in the woods behind St. Bonaventure’s campus in a fictional border region between two countries where the Battalion had to split into squads and complete small unit missions against an insurgent force played by the Battalion’s MSIV’s.

The LTX went from 3:00 p.m. on Friday to about noon on Sunday, the entire time spent in a combat scenario.  Weapons had to be within arm’s reach at all times.  Guards roamed the camp’s perimeter at night, challenging anyone who got too close.  Red light lenses had to be used in hours of darkness to prevent revealing positions from afar and constant accountability of all personnel and equipment was paramount.

The first night was spent in review classes, ensuring that each cadet was proficient in the tasks necessary to successfully complete a squad-level mission.  The following morning, beginning at 5 a.m., cadets woke to begin establishing unit SOP’s, or Standard Operating Procedures, and practicing their skills for the missions ahead.  At noon, cadets broke for lunch and headed out to start their missions.

The cadets were broken down into four squads with three or four MSIII cadets and several MSI and II’s.  The MSIII’s rotated as squad leaders after every mission, the intent being that they get practice for the chance when they will lead a platoon-sized mission when they attend the Cadet Leader’s Course this summer at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  There were for tactical missions, or lanes, each with a different objective and task to complete.  They were an ambush, a recon, a squad attack, and a patrol along a road laden with fictional IED’s, or Improvised Explosive Devices.  One big difference this year was that paintball guns were used for the duration of the exercise – meaning the opposing forces would actually be shooting at each other instead of yelling “Bang, Bang” as in years past.

The lanes lasted until 6 p.m., when cadets returned to Assembly Area “Freedom” and conducted a review of the day’s missions, identifying successes and deficiencies they’d encountered during the day.

After eating a hot meal cadets received the news that they would be conducting platoon attacks starting at 6 a.m. the following morning.  While most slept, the cadets that had been identified as platoon leadership stayed awake and planned the operation, which would require moving over 3 miles through woods, swamp, and hilly terrain – mostly in the dark.  Their mission was to attack and destroy an enemy listening post positioned alongside a crucial road that crossed the border

The following day cadets rose and quickly moved out, taking to the darkened forests behind St. Bonaventure, their objective near Gargoyle Park in Olean.  Cadets quickly learned the challenges of operating at night and in large groups, taking roughly five hours to complete the mission and return to camp.  After a brief review, they were released.

LTX 2015 stressed teaching leadership roles to cadets as early as possible.  Unlike past years, MS II cadets were assigned as team leaders so they could begin to learn leadership in the field early.  This development is crucial to ensure strong leadership skills going into the MSIII year, where cadets are expected to take charge both in the field and in garrison.

Now with its teeth cut, Seneca Battalion will spend the remainder of the semester perfecting the skills tested at LTX, striving to ever-improve tactical performance.

If you have any questions about ROTC at St. Bonaventure, Alfred State College, Alfred University, Houghton College, Jamestown Community College, or the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, please contact Jared Kausner at JKAUSNER@sbu.edu