FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Simultaneous Membership Program allows ROTC cadets participating in their university’s ROTC program to also serve in the Virginia National Guard. During the past several months, those cadets enrolled in the SMP have been training with cadre assigned to the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The training is part of a pilot program designed to increase their leadership skills and prepare them for significant training events later this year.
“Our mission is to prepare them for advanced camp,” said Lt. Col. Todd Riviezzo, commander of the RTI’s 1st Battalion which oversees the SMP training. He explained that advanced camp is a 31-day training event designed to assess and validate the leadership skills of the cadets. The training includes a 12-day field training exercise that will test the cadets mentally and physically and push them to lead at the squad and platoon levels, both in garrison and in tactical environments. Successful completion of advanced camp is a requirement for those hoping to earn their commission, according to Riviezzo.
Cadet Nathanial Sides, a cadet at Liberty University, said one of the best things about the training at the RTI was the opportunity to work with the schoolhouse’s knowledgeable cadre members.
“The training is solid,” Sides said. “Especially getting to work with so many guys with experience. They’re Rangers, SF guys and a bunch of guys with a ton of experience. It’s the best training I’ve gotten in the Army so far.”
The training, Sides explained, had focused on operations orders, battle drills and other warrior tasks, but what he found the most useful was training on the softer skills of leadership.
“Having these sergeants who have been in leadership positions and worked with a whole lot of leaders be able to evaluate me as I’m doing stuff and say, ‘hey, this is a better way of saying this,’ or, ‘you’re micromanaging, stop doing that,’ so some of the softer skills of leadership, that’s probably going to be my biggest takeaway from all this,” Sides said.
Cadet Aaron Wardlow, also a Liberty University student echoed what Sides had to say about the training and said that it’s different than the training he gets at ROTC, which is more academic-driven, whereas the training with the RTI is more purpose-driven, hands-on training.
“It’s been great,” Wardlow said. “It’s really developed a lot of leadership skills that I need.”
The Virginia National Guard’s SMP cadets will continue training with the RTI for a few more drill weekends, with much of their time spent in the field continuing to work on their leadership skills.