Rappelling and recruiting with ROTC, Mountain Adventure Course kicks off fall semester


by Madison Santos

Garrett Dunlap a Sophomore from Fort Rucker, Ala. and Michael Evans a Sophomore from San Diego, Cali. talk before their turn to repel during Saturday afternoons’ ROTC mountain repelling course North of Flagstaff. (Photo Sean Ryan)

If a student is wearing camouflage and combat boots on Thursdays, it usually means that student is a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). They stand out on campus, but not many know what ROTC is all about or what the cadets of the program go through. At the beginning of every year Northern Arizona University’s ROTC organizes an event known as the Mountain Adventure Course, and it is open to any student who wants to check out the program. This year’s event took place in the forest this past Saturday at the foot of Humphrey’s Peak.

“Think of it as an ice breaker event,” says Erick Gonzalez, senior hotel and restaurant management major. “They get to see all the cool stuff like basic rappelling, so this is what is going to spark their interest.”

Gonzalez, who is a cadet captain in ROTC this year, explains that the Mountain Adventure Course is geared toward freshmen and sophomores, but the upperclassmen are there to help run and organize it.

“We do have a responsibility,” Gonzales says, ”but at the end of the day everyone has a lot of fun.”

The first batch of members was at the event site by 5:30 a.m. Then at 7:30 a.m., the students taking part in the course showed up and the day ended with BBQ at about 11:30 a.m.

Lee Hilpert, a senior officer from Morenci, Ari. belays for Karen Pugliesi, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, during Saturday afternoons’ ROTC mountain repelling course North of Flagstaff. (Photo by Sean Ryan)

“This year it seems bigger than it has been in the past couple of years,” says Austin Chatt, senior engineer major and cadet. About 60 beginner cadets participated with the help of about 25 junior and senior cadets and six Cadres. Cadres are officers that run the ROTC program.

There were several different stations at the event where new cadets were taught how to tie knots and make Swiss seats, which are harnesses made from rope. The harnesses were needed for the three different rappelling stations set up, the most advanced one being 60 feet high.

“Today is a lot of fun and definitely good experience,” says Robert Heath, freshmen business management major. Heath joined ROTC, because he wants to be an officer in the U.S. Army. “Management has a big part in the Army, especially being an officer, so it works,” he says.

Heath enjoys rappelling and thinks it is fun.

“You get a little nervous at first,” Heath says, ”but the jitters go away quick.”

Another cadet who enjoyed the thrill of rappelling is sophomore hotel and restaurant management major, Olivia Simpson.

“Today is fun,” Simpson says, “but for people who are afraid of heights they are probably going to piss their pants.”

Her reasoning for joining ROTC is because she wants the structure and wants to do something for her country.

“It is just a good path for me,” Simpson says, “I actually contracted yesterday, which means after I graduate I’ll go to the Army, and when you contract you get like a three year scholarship.”

Lieutenant Colonel Todd Hourihan was also at the event and gave insight to what “contracting” is.

“Freshmen and sophomores can be in ROTC their first two years with no commitment in order to get a feel for what it is like,” Hourihan says. “After that they can walk away, or they can sign a contract to stay with us and get into tougher training.”

Garrett Dunlap a Sophomore from Fort Rucker, Ala. talks to Major Brain Grable, before starting to repel down the 60 foot rock face during Saturday afternoons’ ROTC mountain repelling course North of Flagstaff. (Photo by Sean Ryan)

Gonzalez contracted after his sophomore year and has had many great experiences in ROTC since then.

“The summer in between sophomore and junior year we are required to go to a 30 day training camp called LDAC (Leadership Development and Assessment Camp),” Gonzalez explains. According to him, LDAC is the largest military training exercise in the world and every single cadet in the nation participates. “I met a lot of people from all over when I went,” he says.

Although the cadets of ROTC have a lot to look forward to, The Mountain Adventure Course is just the first step in their journey.

Jeff Hall, a sophomore parks and recreation major, was another participant at the event.

“I have always wanted to join the Army and get an education,” Hall says. “This way I can do both and it is great leadership experience.”

At events like these, the ROTC invites special guests in order for other people to see what the program is like and what they are working on. Vice Provost of NAU Doctor Karen Puglies came to the Mountain Adventure Course and she even tried rappelling a couple of times.

“It’s a good tradition to begin the program,” Gonzalez says, “and it gives new comers the big picture of what ROTC is like.”

“The main purpose of the event is to give the students confidence and to have fun,” Lieutenant Colonel Hourihan says.


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