Page 12,The Institute Report, June 2013
Military Skills Club Trains in the Field
The sound of guns firing and
simulated explosions can be less than
comforting, but for members of VMI’s
Military Skills Club on the weekend of
April 19-21, those sounds were simply
a part of training and preparation.
Maj. Todd Pegg ’92, the club’s
adviser, had lots to teach them during
that weekend, which served as the
club’s annual capstone field training
exercise. Pegg has 20 years of active
and reserve service, including service
in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a
three-year tour in VMI’s Army ROTC
department. He is now an energy
manager working for VMI’s Physical
“I try to give cadets a perspective on things that I would have liked to
have learned in a training environment earlier in my own career,” said
Pegg. “I really try to teach them a little bit more about how to think …
rather than what to think.”
The club, previously the Special Actions Detachment, is an organization
that offers military training beyond that offered by the ROTC units. Until
2005, it was an Army ROTC-affiliated organization, but since then it has
been open to cadets in all branches of service.
For the FTX, 14 cadets traveled to the mountains near Harrisonburg
to practice, test, and expand their skills. Accompanying them were
eight OPFOR – opposing forces – that challenged the cadets in military
“We do the training with blanks and simulated explosions, and it’s …
exciting,” said David Liberatore ’14, assistant cadet in charge. “When
you’re in a better atmosphere like that, you’re going to learn more,
and you’re going to just do better.” Liberatore is currently seeking to
commission with the Army.
In one exercise, the cadets were split
into two groups and told to attack an
OPFOR position. With little information
available, the cadets were forced to
think and adapt, with variables such as
steep terrain, vegetation, and elevation
affecting their decisions.
“Since they could not see the terrain
or maneuver on it ahead of time, their
own flexibility and fast ‘observe-orient-
decide-act’ cycle were key, rather than
the routine application of a playbook,”
In addition to environmental variables
including temperatures down into the
20s at night, the cadets, on foot, were
instructed to avoid being found by the OPFOR patrolling in trucks. The
exercise’s training area covered several hundred acres of rugged terrain.
“The most challenging event …was simply remaining undetected by
the enemy,” said Liberatore.
This year’s group consisted of seven first-time participants and seven
“It seemed like it was really well organized and we actually got to
incorporate everything we learned throughout our training earlier in
the semester,” said Ian Cochran ’16. “It kind of put into perspective for
me and my Brother Rats, that are new to the club this year, that the stuff
we’re learning does have use.” Cochran plans to commission with the
Mike Schiffer ’13, club cadet in charge, reflected on the exercise with
satisfaction. “I’d say all in all, this one, from start to finish, from gathering
all the people to submitting the permit … to the actual completion, went
really well.” Schiffer plans to enlist in the Marine Corps.
The Military Skills Club pursued Field Training Exercises
– Photo courtesy of Maj. Todd Pegg.
VMI police chief Michael Marshall, Sgt.
David Henson, and detective Beth Hunt
work with the Virginia State Police, directing
the response to a suspicious object that was
found in front of Preston Library April
24. The State Police bomb disposal unit’s
robot moved the item to a small sandbag
bunker set up on the Parade Ground and
neutralized it with a controlled detonation.
Ultimately the object was determined not to
have been an explosive device.
– VMI Photo
by John Robertson IV.