St. Bonaventure ROTC recap week three

By Jake McCollum

[Image courtesy of]

If pictures are worth a thousand words, what about highly detailed military models complete with elevation changes and pathways?

This week, Seneca Battalion learned the value of a Terrain Model.

Saint Bonaventure ROTC cadets entered the chapel in Francis Hall to find themselves staring at a five by five foot model of St Bonaventure’s campus. Known as a Terrain Model (TM), it divided the campus into four military grids and depicted all of the university buildings, bike paths and walkways, the mountains behind campus and the Allegheny River.

Terrain Models are the small scale constructions that military briefers use to explain an operations order to the units that will be undertaking the mission.  Making them requires practice and skill in order to accurately depict the battlefield. They are usually made with sand and other natural materials, depicting the battlefield on a scope that maps and satellite surveillance pictures can’t.

Platoon and squad leaders need to be experts at making TM’s in order to properly brief their soldiers.  Without a crystal clear concept of the operation, mistakes will be made.   Cadets sat in a circle around the TM as Cadets Robert Russel and Brian Machina explained its various parts.

After, Cadets broke into squads and MSIII’s like cadet Eric Gemmel made a rudimentary TM and briefed a mission they had just received to the rest of the squad.  Gemmel, a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard as well as an ROTC cadet, went over the entire concept of the operation, from where the squad would be inserted at the assembly area, or “Alpha Alpha” to how the unit would move away from their objective once the mission was accomplished.

“You never want to go out the same way you came in, unless there’s dire circumstances.” Gemmel said as he traced the path on the demonstration TM.  After he was done explaining the squad’s fictional mission he talked about building and briefing on a TM.

“You’re not gonna have time to do this,” he said, pointing to the large scale TM that had been set up by MSIV’s prior to the start of the lab.  “It’s gonna be down and dirty.  You just want to get your point across.”  Normally, TM’s are made with whatever the briefer has within reach.

This and last week’s lab are preparations for when Seneca Battalion will practice Recon and Ambush operations in a couple weeks.

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