UNM ROTC cadets geared up and took the plunge for the semi-annual water qualification challenge yesterday morning.
More than 100 Army ROTC cadets participated in various aquatic challenges as part of their officer training and evaluation.
“It is a requirement to commission as an officer and for our leadership development assessment course in the summer,” Chris Garcia, ROTC senior cadet, said.
The assessment included a continuous swim for 10 minutes, five minutes of treading water, a 30-meter swim in uniform with equipment, equipment ditch exercises, and finally a three-meter blindfolded jump off the high dive in uniform with a rifle, Garcia said.
“Our colonel is very adamant about passing this course. We don’t let anybody fail,” he said.
UNM ROTC cadets are tested in several situations in order to assess their survivability when faced with difficult situations.
The program is designed to prepare cadets for future challenges they will face in their training for military service. However, in the presence of UNM lifeguards and trained ROTC professionals, cadets know that they are never in real danger, he said.
Cadet Nash Phillips, a sophomore, described the excitement of jumping blindfolded from the high dive.
“You get right to the edge with your toes hanging off, take a step and count two seconds and you’re in the water,” Phillips said.
It’s a unique program unlike any other club on campus. Cadets get to do many things that other college students wouldn’t get to do, he said.
“I’ve loved it since the day I got here,” Phillips said. “I hope to make a career in the Army, and I feel the ROTC has prepared me to succeed in any aspect of life.”
Challenges range in difficulty depending on the cadet’s confidence in the water and swimming ability. Expectations are the same for everyone; age and sex do not matter, Garcia said.
Cadet Monday Price, a senior liberal arts major, said she has participated six times since joining the program in 2010 and has passed every time. She said she enjoys the way women are treated in the program.
“This program encourages females to go further. I’ve always felt like I’ve had the same opportunities alongside the male cadets,” Price said. “As long as I didn’t set the limit as a female that I can’t do something because of my gender, I feel like I can excel just as fast as the men.”
For her, Army ROTC has been a driving force. It has given her the motivation to get through school and do some amazing things.
“My grandfather was Army, so knew I always wanted to do it. I felt like I had the leadership qualities to be an officer,” she said.
Timothy DeLass, a lieutenant colonel with 28 years of military service, said he has spent the last 3 1/2 years at UNM as an instructor with the ROTC.
“When I first got here, the program was probably a third of the size,” he said. “Today, the program is getting to the point to rival (Texas Christian University) or (Colorado State University) up in Boulder.”
This semester, 126 cadets participate in weekly physical training, classes during the week, or in leadership labs. Not everyone in the ROTC is going to be an officer or join the Army, as participating and taking the classes can translate into a minor in military science, DeLass said.
“This is a great group of kids. They keep me motivated,” DeLass said. “It’s really rewarding. I would have retired seven years ago but doing this keeps me young.”
For more information on the UNM ROTC program or for descriptions and dates of upcoming events, visit their website at armyrotc.unm.edu.