By: C/CMSgt Klara Olcott
C/Public Affairs Officer
Glendale Composite Squadron 308
Wadell, AZ--On February 22-24, 2013, the 25th Annual Desert FTX (Field Training Exercise) took place.
Thursday planning meetings for the FTX began in January. We met at the Glendale Squadron. My flexible school schedule allowed me the rare privilege to witness a “Behind the Scenes” view of what goes into organizing a successful FTX. It is hard to comprehend the magnitude of work! On the morning of February 21st, I was able to assist the Senior Members in packing the vans and loading the gear for the next day.
Albertsons as well as other stores donated all of our viands: pounds of potato salad, huge containers of margarine and coleslaw, stacks, meat, and a plentiful supply of fruits – to name just a few of the delicious foods from which all FTX attendees partook. If you ask any camper, they would all say the same thing, “We ate well at that FTX!”
The Senior Members, accompanied by myself and a few other cadets, arrived early Friday morning. We emptied the vans, moved the trash barrels to strategic areas, and set up cones for the “parking lot”, girls’ and guys’ camping areas, and camp boundaries. Upon arriving at 4pm, the cadets checked in and set up their tents. With some group teamwork, most of the tents were erected soon after twilight slipped into dusk. And, yes, there were some late arrivals who had to set up their tents by flashlight.
We then assembled for the first Formation of the weekend. Following that, all of us gathered for an Orientation and Safety Briefing by Maj. Scott Kozakiewicz and our first lesson of the weekend: Venomous Creatures, taught by Lt. Col. F.G. “Fritz” Seifritz. Afterward, we spent a few minutes at the fire pit, had a light snack, and then it was time for sleep.
This weekend event held many interesting and exciting activities! Among the classes taught to each flight of cadets in rotation were: Map & Compass, Maj. M. Hosa, Capt. W. Prokapow, and C/CMSgt. T. Nichols; Leadership & DDR, Capt. W. Fields and C/Maj. A. Grana (pm); Signaling & Field Equipment, Maj. D. Gregor and C/2Lt. D. Bautista; Fire Building & Water, Maj. M. Fields, C/Maj. A. Grana (am), C/CMSgt. T. Nichols (am), Ms. A. O’Malley and Mr. T.J. Picarello - DSU Posse). Yes, by the end of the FTX, each cadet had started a fire by themselves, was proficient in teamwork, could follow a compass heading, and could signal a plane!
On Sunday morning, three classes were held: Moral Leadership, SM D. Lopeman, Chaplain, Capt. M. Macari, MLO, and Pastor P. Leyvas; Search Techniques, Tracking and use of K – 9’s, Lt. Col. F.G. Seifritz, and Ms. M. Falco and her dog; and Mark 9 Posse and ELT – DF’ing, Maj. D. Gregor, and C/2Lt. D. Bautista.
All of their training classes prepared the cadets for… the Survival Olympics! A prestigious award earned by one flight only, the Survival Olympics is a huge highlight of the FTX for all cadets. Emphasizing teamwork, efficiency, and precision, this competition measured the survival proficiency of not only individual cadets, but also each flight as a whole.
The requirements had to be completed in a timely manner and the winner of the title went to… Bravo Flight! Cadets in that flight got a special prize for their victory.
Individual awards were presented as well. The Honor Cadet of the FTX was C/SrA T. Garza; Honor Staff went to C/TSgt J. Bucher, and last, but certainly not least, 2nd Lt. K. Moore was awarded Honor Senior Member!
The whole operation rolled out smoothly due to the incredible efforts of Senior Members and Cadets and this event was a resounding success and fun for all. The cadets were taught survival tactics as well as teamwork – a necessary skill for life.
Special acknowledgment and thanks goes to Maj. S. Kozakiewicz, for his dedication to the cadets by organizing this FTX. Gratitude is also extended to the Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office and specifically to the Desert Search Unit and Mark 9 Posse members who gave of their time and talents. Special thanks are similarly offered for the exceptional assistance of Lt. Col. ‘Fritz’ Seifritz, Maj. D. Gregor, Capt. M. Macari, SM D. Larkham, and Jim Lucas. The FTX C/Commander, Lt. S. Lacy, did an exemplary job leading the cadet staff, making communications smooth and aiding and monitoring operations from start to finish.
The Desert FTX was a great outdoor experience. A fun weekend, and very informative and educational. Over 80 participants learned much about desert survival, as well as basic search and rescue training and Aerospace Education. I hope we’ll see you at the next FTX!