MSU’s ROTC program executed their Field Training Exercise (FTX) beginning Thursday, Nov. 19.

The FTX consisted of training exercises designed to provide new instruction and to test the training cadets have received throughout the fall 2020 semester and prior years. These exercises occurred over a four-day operation, with cadets sleeping on-site and training nearly nonstop from start to finish.

The exercise took place at Camp Crowder, a National Guard base near Neosho, Missouri. Approximately 61 students participated, including students from MSU as well as cadets who are in the Bear Battalion but are enrolled at Evangel University, Drury University, Ozark Technical Community College or Southwest Baptist University instead of MSU.

The FTX began with two UH60L Blackhawk helicopters landing in front of the battalion’s rappel tower on MSU’s campus and transported the junior cadets to Camp Crowder. Upon arrival, the cadets began establishing living quarters and an operating center, according to Captain Peter Michalak, the battalion’s executive officer.

Cadets hit the ground running, climbing and shimmying on Friday with an obstacle course. Senior-year cadets provided instruction and safety measures to the junior cadets and underclassmen.

“The purpose of the obstacle course is to build confidence through teamwork, both physically and mentally,” said Cadet Wyatt Groves, a sophomore studying anthropology. Groves entered the program through the National Guard’s Simultaneous Membership Program, with five years of prior enlisted service, including a deployment to Qatar.

“It’s about overcoming mental barriers so when you come to a life-or-death situation, you know you can already do it,” said Cadet Andrew Balkenbusch, a sophomore student who entered the program as the recipient of a three-year scholarship out of high school and is pursuing a degree in communications.

Assistant Gunner

A senior cadet aids and instructs a junior cadet operating a M240B automatic machine gun. The senior cadet fills the role of assistant gunner by feeding the ammunition, providing feedback on targeting and clearing jams.

The M240B machine gun land navigation courses also occurred on Friday. 

According to senior Cadet Sarah Butcher, the battalion commander within the cadet chain of command, the focal point of the FTX took place on Saturday as cadets participated in Situational Training Exercises (STX). Each squad of six to eight cadets carried out four different STX missions, each lasting about two hours.

The STX missions were organized in an operations center run by Butcher and her staff. Senior Cadet Laura Cox, Butcher’s executive officer, coordinated personnel, accountability, timelines and other mission-essential factors for the exercises from an operations center nearby.

“These exercises are like the walk phase to prepare cadets for the spring FTX and for the juniors’ summer cadet training, which lasts four weeks and takes place at Fort Knox, Kentucky,” Cox said.

In the field, the six squads rotated the position of squad leader between junior cadets, who were assessed on their performance by senior cadets after each STX mission. Cadets being assessed will attend the competitive Cadet Summer Training next summer at Fort Knox, KY, where their performance will affect which assignment they are given upon commissioning. 

Mission types included ambushes, reconnaissance patrols and assaults on enemy objectives.

Each squad’s simulated enemies in the STX lanes were played by senior cadets who provided feedback on the squad’s performance from the perspective of the enemy. Cadets were armed for the exercise with low-velocity paintball guns and protective masks worn at all times.

While the FTX was the crescendo training event of the fall semester, the battalion will participate in a larger joint FTX with ROTC programs from Lincoln University and Missouri University of Science and Technology in the spring semester, according to Butcher.

The last major ROTC event in the fall semester will be the commissioning of five cadets on Dec. 11 as they are awarded their degrees and receive the rank of second lieutenant in the Army. The remaining ten cadets in their year group will graduate and receive their commissions in the spring semester. 

Further information about the Bear Battalion and their exercises and events can be found by contacting the program’s enrollment and scholarship officer Phillip “Rob” Roberson at 417-836-5793 or by email at


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