University of Vermont

Cadet Troop Leading Training Program

Cadet Diego Russell

Cadet Russell and three other CTLT cadets after qualifying as expert marksmen at an M-2 firing range

            I arrived at Seoul Incheon International Airport around 8:30 pm local time on the second week in July. Coming from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, fresh from the Army's Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC), I was happy to once again find myself in an urban environment despite the disorienting sixteen hour time difference. Relieved to be done with LDAC and inundated with the luxuries of Korea Air, I stepped off the plane to meet with LTC Taylor of New Mexico State University, the officer in command of our iteration of the Cadet Troop Leader Training program (CTLT) in South Korea.

            We were heading for a holding barracks at the Yongsan Army Garrison for the night, before each of the CTLT cadets would be distributed to their respective branch assignments. I was heading to Osan Air Force Base to work with the Delta Battery of the 6-52 Air Defense Artillery Battalion. As I would soon find out, Delta Battery, equivalent to a company in any other army branch, operated on the periphery of a Republic of Korea (ROK) air force base.

            On my second day in Korea, I met my sponsor, 2nd Lt. Riedel, who served as the officer in command of the maintenance platoon within Delta Battery. I would be his shadow for the next three weeks, often performing his duties under his guidance. Our area of operations was a large motor pool that consisted of many humvees, trailers and 5 ton trucks. Across the road and through a few fences I could see A-10 Warthogs fueling and taxiing on a runway straddled by armored hangars. On our side of the fences sat eight Patriot missile launchers, each within a reinforced concrete alcove.  Each launcher was erect, prepared to fire and pointed northward.

            As we entered the compound, Lt. Riedel gave me brief descriptions of much of the equipment we passed, including each of the five service vehicles required to operate a Patriot missile battery. We then entered his administrative office squashed between two large maintenance bays. Though small, the office's air conditioning made it pleasantly cool compared to the 85 degree, 100% humidity that is the norm during the rainy season in South Korea.

            The first order of business was to “write an award for one of the specialists in the platoon,” said Lt. Riedel as he booted up his computer. Over the next three weeks, my days would consist of writing such awards, performing inventory checks on our equipment, conducting PT, attending training meetings, and going to training sessions in the van. The van was a compartment on the back of the Command Truck where, in a wartime situation, a platoon leader and a radio operator would monitor the battery's radar for any hostile targets, differentiate said targets from any friendly assets in the area and eventually, if necessary, engage the target with a Patriot Missile.

            “I've never seen a Patriot Missile fired; matter of fact I've heard that you can go your whole career in Air Defense and not see one fired,” said Riedel after I asked the obvious question. It seemed that much of the job of an air defender was to prepare, monitor and run simulation drills. We had such a simulation drill during my third and final week in Korea. Each of the five batteries in 6-52 Battalion were on full alert during the week-long Battalion FTX.  For our maintenance battalion, much of our job stayed the same save for the periodic use of cob-mob equipment. This equipment, which basically consisted of a suit and gas mask used to protect against chemical and biological threats was cumbersome and made the making of training-meeting slides for the next week a rather difficult task.

            Overall, my time in South Korea was well spent. I learned much about performing the necessary tasks required to maintain a platoon. I learned about how much soldiers rely upon their platoon leader in administrative business as well as guidance with their daily lives. My time in Korea taught me the importance of quickly establishing a strong and communicative relationship with my platoon sergeant as well as my soldiers when I become a 2nd Lt. The CTLT program taught me much about the everyday life of an active duty 2nd Lt. in a more intimate way than I ever experienced during my time in ROTC. I would highly recommend the program to any cadet for its first-hand experience and intimate perspective. I would also recommend traveling to South Korea for its natural beauty, rich culture and kind people.