Cadets simulate combat with paintball battle

Kirkland, Wash., senior David Brenna gains a vantage point by crawling on the ground around barriers and forcing his opponents to surrender during Air Force ROTC’s Powerplay Paintball training event Wednesday at Meyers Lane.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photographer

By James Stockton

Outnumbered and outgunned, the members of the Air Force ROTC professional officer course fought valiantly but were ultimately defeated Wednesday at Powerplay Paintball in Waco.

It was the 13th leadership lab of the semester for the cadets of the ROTC and this one was used to teach the cadets basic ground tactics.

“We’ve taught them small unit tactics and some MOUT training,” said Cadet Lt. Col. Evan Ross, an Aledo junior who helped coordinate and run the leadership lab.

MOUT stands for military operations on urban terrain. Tactics like these are being taught to Air Force cadets as their role in the military evolves.

“The Air Force today is not what the Air Force was 25 years ago,” Ross said. “A lot of airmen are being asked to go pick up an M16 and go fight on the front lines.”

Paintball has been used for the past five years to give Baylor cadets a taste of what battle would be like. It also prepares sophomores for their field training, which happens at the end of the spring semester.

The cadets were split into two teams for two games. The first pitted the field training preparation cadets against the rest of the group, while in the second game, members of the professional officer course, or POC, went into battle against pretty much everyone else.

“POC held strong as best we could,” said Cadet Cpt. Luke Dempsey, a junior from Bel Air, Md. “Our numbers were down, but we did what we could.”

It was Dempsey’s third year participating in the lab, and his experience showed.

To make up for the smaller number of soldiers, Dempsey and a couple of other cadets made paint grenades the night before out of corn starch and water. They hoped the “grenades” would help turn the tide of battle.

Unfortunately, they weren’t so lucky.

But while the cadets had fun with the paintball lab, their commanding officers made sure to reinforce strong character traits that would serve them well in a time of war.

“Bottom line with this kind of exercise is that it all comes down to fundamentals,” said Maj. David Lamkin, assistant professor of aerospace studies and commandant of cadets. “The two fundamentals for this type of exercise are teamwork and communication. Without either one of those, the teams fail.”

While the fundamentals remain the same, the lab may change from year to year.

Cadet Col. Grace Butler is the wing commander. She is responsible for everything that happens with the wing.

“The reason we come back each year is it proves a good practice for them in terms of incorporating stuff that we’ve taught them,” Butler said. “Every time we’ve done it, we’ve kind of learned a little bit from it.”

As the Air Force undergoes changes to a more expeditionary force, Ross said its creed remains the same, whether on the training field or on the battlefield.

They will never falter. They will not fail.