Meet the Grizzly Battalion. The University of Montana ROTC group is ready for their biggest weekend of the year. Two and a half days of tactical training in the woods around Fort Harrison in Helena. And today, they are getting to the Capital City in style.
“Military helicopters are very loud, very loud. It’s like riding in a big school bus in the air. It’s a good time,” says UM ROTC Sophomore Hunter Paulson.
“My roommate first of all was like, are you flying in the helicopter, I want to come down and watch,” jokes Lauren Ochoa.
These Chinook helicopters are on loan today from the Montana National Guard, and simply put, they are the Cadillac's of the sky. And something that we found out quickly: ear protection is critical.
The ROTC at the University of Montana is going to meet up with MSU, Carroll College, and MSU-Billings. They are going to learn a lot of leadership skills, and have a ton of fun.
“It’s definitely just soaking up as much information as we can, and learning from my squad leaders and all the cadre that we have out there.” Ochoa says.
Once their boots hit the ground, they begin their march towards base camp. Juniors take control of their platoons, and make sure their cadets are in the right spots.
“I kind of chose the university first, and it turns out that they had an ROTC program here. And I knew that I wanted to be a part of something that is bigger than myself.” Ochoa says.
A rugged weekend ahead is awaiting the cadets to test their tactical and team building skills. That includes midnight patrols through the Helena wilderness, sleeping under the stars in 20 degree weather, and even learning which MREs (“Meals Ready To Eat") are the ones you want to consume, and which ones you try and trade.
“My favorite is the Chicken Pesto Pasta. You get some cobbler in there. Most of the bad MREs that no one wants, at least they have Skittles or M&Ms, so that’s what we trade.” jokes Paulson.
Their weekend began with the first of many helicopter rides they will eventually go on in their military careers. But they will return on Sunday night to the Montana campus tired, maybe a little dirty, but more effective future officers in the United States Army.
“I just want to be the best leader that I can be. You know, be someone who makes someone else better each and every day.” Ochoa says.