By Alison Haywood
While the government shutdown feels far away for many Pacific Lutheran students, others are experiencing its direct effects. One demographic particularly affected is PLU’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, whose annual training exercise Lute Forge was cancelled last weekend.
Lute Forge is one of two field training exercises, or FTXs, that ROTC cadets participate in each year. In this two-day exercise, cadets practice land navigation skills, go through an obstacle course and rappel down a 40-foot tower. The event should have taken place last Saturday and Sunday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
“I was disappointed because the fourth-years had put a great deal of time and effort into preparation. We spent a month, month and a half in preparation,” Jacob Emery, a PLU senior and executive officer among the cadets, said. Emery explained that the fourth-year cadets are in charge of oversight and planning, the third-year cadets are in charge of execution, and the first- and second-year cadets are mostly learning.
“It’s a lot of fun for the younger cadets,” Emery said. “We have a blast with it.”
Emery described his first time participating in Lute Forge as a first-year cadet as one of his favorite memories from ROTC. “You’re able to go out and do confidence [obstacle] courses where you’re climbing down a rope that’s 40 feet off the ground,” he said. “You of course have safety equipment, but it’s getting over fears for a lot of people.”
Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Keller, professor of military science, said that PLU’s ROTC had known this was a possibility for several weeks preceding the government shutdown, known as the furlough. They received official word that there was no funding for the event from the ROTC brigade at JBLM on Oct. 2 and notified the cadets immediately after.
“There are costs associated with the transportation of our cadets to and from JBLM, and meals,” Keller said. “It’s not a big amount, but still, that money’s got to be there in order for us to do that.”
Keller said that while the Pay Our Military Act allows military personnel to continue receiving their paychecks, it does not cover other expenses, including training and operations.
President Obama passed the Pay Our Military Act on Sept. 30 a few hours before the government shutdown, meaning that all military personnel continue to be paid as normal during the government shutdown. Civilian employees who worked for the military, however, such as accountants and secretaries, were not included initially in this act and did not go to work last week until the Pentagon reinterpreted the act last Saturday to include them, according to an article in The News Tribune published the same day.
The act means that military instructors in ROTC programs will continue to go on campus and teach classes during the shutdown, a spokesperson from Cadet Command said. The spokesperson said, however, that some field training exercises might have to be “delayed” until the budget situation becomes clearer.
Keller said the ROTC instructors have various courses of action they can take to make up for the missed training session. He said they hoped to cover the land navigation skills during bimonthly labs, which take place on Thursdays and, if necessary, a Saturday lab scheduled to take place in November.
“As far as a training impact, we’ll be able to make this up,” Keller said. “There’s no significant impact to our ability to train and prepare the cadets.”
Emery said he felt bad for the younger cadets who would not be able to participate in Lute Forge this year. “This is something they look forward to,” he said. “It’s excellent training for them, and so missing that opportunity for them is tough.”