ROTC Weekly Recap: Land Navigation Course

By Jacob McCollum

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This week, Seneca Battalion ROTC cadets conducted a land navigation course that took them through the forests and main buildings of campus.

Land navigation is a critical skill for any soldier.  Knowing where you are is vital for conducting operations on the battlefield or at home.  With modern technology, land navigation has become relatively easy.  In the field, the Army constantly monitors its troops and vehicles through a system called Blue Force Tracker, a GPS system that follows US assets anywhere on the globe.

The problem is: technology doesn’t work all the time.

That’s why ROTC cadets, as well as soldiers in most of the Army’s training schools, undergo land navigation courses, where paper maps and compasses are used to navigate the “old school” way.

First, cadets were taken outside behind the Reilly Center to ensure their compasses were properly calibrated. After they determined their pace count, the number of steps they take to move 100 meters.

Cadets were then taken inside and given a plastic zip-lock bag containing a map of the St. Bonaventure campus and surrounding areas, a protractor, a “lane strip,” a glow stick and a whistle.   Cadet Koty Mann gave a safety brief and went over the area of operations, or AO, where the land navigation course was set up.

Once Mann was finished, cadets were given 15 minutes to plot the coordinates from their lane strip.  Once all points were plotted, cadets had to choose a path from point to point and then determine the distance in meters and direction in degrees on their compass that they would need to move in order to accurately find the point. This is all done using the military protractor provided to the cadets.

Experienced MSII and MSIII cadets were sent out alone without any review instruction to find five points.  Those that had not undergone a land navigation course before were held back for instruction and released later to find two points.

While this all sounds easy in theory, it’s anything but.

Once the direction is determined by use of the compass, distance is determined 100 meters at a time.  Every time the pace count is reached it starts over, marking that the cadet has walked 100 meters.  Every so often the cadet has to check their heading and ensure they’re still walking in the same direction.  In a forest, there are many things that can throw off a pace count.  Swamps, fallen logs,

Even if all of this is done perfectly, if the plot is off, the cadet will find nothing at the end of their path.  Then the cadet would have to look for the point and hope to find the right one, or re-plot the point and try to find it based off of one of the Known Points plotted throughout the map as an aid.

Adding to the challenge was the fact that this time around, cadets had to find points hidden amongst Bonaventure’s buildings as well, requiring them to be even more accurate with their plots.

For this course, fluorescent orange kites were used for woodland points and white tape was used for urban points.  On the kites and tape were alpha numeric codes that cadets were to write on their lane strips.  Once all points were found, cadets returned to the start point and have the lane strip graded.

All in all, cadets returned with solid scores and more experience in the difficult science of land navigation.

Major Patrick Miller remembers his ROTC days at Bonaventure

By Jacob McCollum

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Even heroes remember their roots.

Major Patrick Miller visited MSII and MSIII cadets from Seneca Battalion before their lab this week to talk about his past experiences as an Army Officer and a member of the Medical Corps.

Miller, a ROTC graduate of St. Bonaventure in 2003, was shot at close range during the shootings at Fort Hood on April second last year.  Despite his wound, Miller continued to move others to safety and called 911 while the shooting was still in progress.

After the shooting, the two-time Iraq War veteran received substantial media attention, met the Army’s highest ranking officer and was awarded the Meritous Service medal.


He has since fully recovered from the .45 caliber bullet fired into his abdomen from only a couple feet away.

And yet, he has not forgotten his old ROTC battalion.

During the forty five minute meeting with Seneca Battalion cadets, Miller told them what to expect once they graduated and arrived at their units as Second Lieutenants.

“Don’t show up thinking you know everything,” he said.  “If you have a question, ask.”

“You’re all peers… help each other out,” he said, describing the importance of cadets pulling together and supporting each other even after their time with ROTC is over.  He still keeps in contact with most of his graduating class.

After his talk he answered the cadets’ questions – including what motivated him through all of his exploits.

“9/11,” he replied instantly.  “I was a MSIII then…we watched that on TV.” He also cited his love of being a soldier and country as well as his brothers in arms that returned from combat with severe wounds. “I’m not missing a limb, I don’t have a TBI [traumatic brain injury]… I have to go on and kick ass at my job because I know people who can’t.”

At the end of the talk Lieutenant Colonel Zehnder presented Miller the Seneca Battalion challenge coin and thanked him for remembering the battalion that started his path to the Army.

“This is not an ‘old guy,'” Zehnder said to the cadets. “You’ve heard some of what he has had to say from your cadre before. Now you’re hearing it from a Bonnie.”

Miller’s love for the Army continues despite the trials he has gone through in combat and back at home.

“It’s the only thing I know and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

St. Bonaventure ROTC recap week three

By Jake McCollum

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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.

St. Bonaventure ROTC recap week two

By Jacob McCollum

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Napoleon may have said that an army fights on its stomach, but America’s military relies on quick, effective communication just as much as its next meal.

On Thursday Seneca Battalion learned the art of the Operations Order or OPORD. An OPORD is the standardized format in which military planners form and brief their units operations both in garrison and in the field.

The OPORD format is a five paragraph setup that packs nearly incomprehensible information into a neat and orderly letter explaining the finest details of an operation to the men and women carrying it out.  OPORDs branch down from the brigade to the squad level (thousands of troops down to a small group of eight to twelve) and work in such a way that every unit has a specific and well thought out assignment.

“The OPORD is such a crucial part to Army operations because it allows the Army to develop a strong, solid plan and methodology for how [it is] going to conduct any mission,” cadet Robert Russell said.  A MSIII, or junior, at St Bonaventure University, he taught a class at the beginning of Thursday’s lab that explained the OPORD to new MSI’s as well as reviewed it for the more experienced MS II and III’s.  The different classes in ROTC are signified by grade level, so MSI is a freshman, MSII a sophomore, etc.

Russell demonstrated the incredible amounts of information soldiers need to conduct operations on the modern battlefield.  “The OPORD allows information to be distributed in a well organized and easy to understand manner.  It is important to master this skill in ROTC because we are officers in training…. who will be creating and distributing [these] plans.  It is essential that we understand not only the OPORD format but also how to create and distribute OPORDs in an organized and timely matter.”

After the initial brief and review by Russell, Seneca Battalion split into small groups and briefed actual OPORDs to see how much of the staggering amounts of mission essential information they could retain in the small amount of time during the brief.

This is all in preparation for Recon and Ambush tactical exercises in a couple weeks, where Seneca Battalion cadets assigned as squad leaders will use the OPORD format to brief their cadets on the details of their operation.

Until then, Seneca Battalion continues to hone its leadership skills.

ROTC cadet training, all in a day’s work

By Jake McCollum

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A casualty is something no soldier wants to deal with, but is always prepared for.

This past week, Seneca Battalion ROTC Cadets learned basic first aid and casualty evacuation skills as part of its weekly training lab.  Held every Thursday, labs consist of events such as the Field Leader’s Reaction Course (FLRC) or squad training exercises (STX) as well as a review about how to make labs better in the future.

The lab was broken down into three stations, one for wound assessment and treatment, one for picking up the casualty and moving to a secure location, and the last for evacuating that casualty from the battlefield.

Cadets had to learn and demonstrate several different types of techniques for carrying wounded comrades.  One was the fireman’s carry, where one cadet had to pick up another from facedown on the ground and carry them across their shoulders.  They also learned what to do if their squad takes fire and how to move their downed brother or sister-in-arms to safety.

“I think the most important part [of the lab] was learning how to assess and treat an injury,” MSIII CDT Devin Schoonover said.  Schoonover, a junior at the University of Pittsburg at Bradford, was one of the instructors of the first aid station, where he taught over a lifelike dummy that displayed wounds that ranged from compound fractures to third degree burns.  These are the same types of wounds that cadets may face when they graduate and become US Army Officers.  “This training translates not only to the battlefield but into the civilian world as well… and I think a lot of ROTC training translates well to civilian life.”

Cadets then learned how to deploy stretchers and how to use them to move non-ambulatory casualties.  They also reviewed how to call in MEDEVAC helicopters to fly those casualties to safety.

The final part of the lab was a comprehensive test on what the cadets had learned – Army style.

Rubberized M-16 rifles were handed out and the cadets were thrown into a combat scenario, making them adapt to dealing with and evacuating casualties while facing imaginary sniper fire and RPG’s.  They had to maintain security in every direction and protect their fallen comrades even as they moved to safety.  While the training was fast paced, it was nothing new to Saint Bonaventure’s ROTC unit.

It was all in a day’s work for Seneca Battalion.

Trietley named vice president for Student Affairs


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By Joe Pinter, @JPinter93

Rick Trietley has worn many different hats in his ten years at St. Bonaventure University. Through different job titles, one thing was always certain: his commitment to Bonaventure students.

Trietley, an Olean, N.Y. native and 1986 Bonaventure graduate, has been named vice president for Student Affairs, where he will report directly to university president Sr. Margaret.

“I view the new position as an expansion of my previous position as vice provost for Student Life,” Trietley said. “…With the change in report structure I will now have regular and consistent communications with Sr. Margaret which will provide her with a more in depth understanding of the issues, trends and best practices that are important to our student body.”

“Having more regular and direct engagement with Rick will enable me to better understand and articulate the opportunities for support as I interact with our alumni, donors, and external funding organizations, as well as a better understanding of the trends, issues and best practices that are important to our current students,” Sr. Margaret said.

Trietley’s past jobs at Bonaventure:

  • U.S. Army ROTC Professor of Military Science (June 2003-June 2008)
  • Director of Safety and Security (July 2008 – February 2009)
  • Vice Provost for Student Life (February 2009- August 2013)

Trietley’s wife is also a Bonaventure graduate.

Additionally to reporting directly to Sr. Margaret, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is now under the Student Affairs Division, Trietley said. Student Affairs now consists of the Career and Professional Readiness Center; Safety and Security; Center for Student Wellness; Center for Activities, Recreation and Leadership; the Damietta Center; and Residential Living and Conduct.

“The vast array of services, educational opportunities and co-curricular opportunities provided by all seven of these departments will enhance the overall student experience and contribute greatly to student success,” Trietley said. “The Student Affairs staff and I welcome the Athletics Department to our team and look forward to the opportunities that this change provides.”

Trietley’s colleagues praised the promotion.

“In all of the roles he has played at the university, he has demonstrated tremendous leadership and collegiality,” said Emily Sinsabaugh, vice president for university relations. “He is highly organized, extraordinarily student-focused, and eager to take on a challenge.”

“I was particularly impressed, while he was director of safety and security, by the way he brought together our region’s law enforcement and emergency response personnel and organizations to create a Memorandum of Understanding that established an unprecedented level of coordination and support for St. Bonaventure University in terms of crisis management, training, and preparedness.  We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for that and for his leadership in creating our crisis response plan.”

Sinsabaugh said Trietley either created or helped create various organizations such as the CPRC and the Wellness Center. He also co-chaired the team that created Bonaventure’s strategic plan, Your Teams – Our Extraordinary Future.  Sinsabaugh also praised him for his work in strengthening Bonaventure’s Student Government Association.

Trietley attends every SGA meeting.

Abby Harrington, SGA’s executive vice president, has worked closely with Trietley.

She said Trietley often goes out of his way to be helpful to students and if she emails him, he almost always gets right back to her. She said she believes he truly has the students’ best interests in mind.

“Our university should be thankful having such a great person working alongside its students,” she said.

This Day in Bonaventure History

By Joe Pinter, News Editor, @JPinter93

October 31, 1986

The Veterans Memorial was built to take the place of the WWII memorial. This new monument honored veterans from WWII, theKorean War and the Vietnam War.

It was on this day that the memorial was dedicated.

Maj. Gen. John Henderson Mitchell, a 1956 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, was the dedication speaker. He was a commanding general of the United States forces in West Berlin at the time of the dedication.

Bonaventure, the National Alumni Board and graduates of the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) funded the construction of the memorial. The memorial originally stood between Devereux Hall and the post office.

In 2000, it was moved because of the addition the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Its current location is near the west entrance of the Reilly Center.