Camp Pendleton weekend provides valuable leadership training for CMC’s ROTC cadets

Twice a year cadets from Claremont McKenna’s Army ROTC program travel down to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for three days of training. The training occurs once in the fall and again in the spring, most recently from April 7-9.

Camp Pendleton is a little less than an hour north of San Diego. The base’s footprint stretches from San Clemente to the north, Oceanside to the south, Interstate 15 to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Training focuses on leadership development, particularly for the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. While the seniors don’t actively participate in the exercises, they are heavily involved in planning for the weekend, and evaluation of the younger cadets.

“During the three-day training event at Camp Pendleton, each class year has a different role during the weekend. As seniors, we are involved in helping to aid and evaluate the training that goes on here,” Cadet Scott Maislin ’17 said. Maislin, a dual major in math and economics, plans to commission into the Infantry Branch as an active duty officer.  After graduation, he is heading to the Infantry Officer Basic Office Leader Course at Fort Benning, Ga. before heading to U.S. Army Ranger School and then to active duty.

Backdropped by rolling green hills, and with the occasional helicopter and Marine V-22 Osprey flying above, the cadets honed their skills through a variety of activities. The 18 CMCers were part of a group of 153 cadets from Southern California area colleges who made the trip to Camp Pendleton. For training exercises the group was broken into squads of 10 to 16, separated by class year.

“The objective is really to build leadership skills. It might look like we are training to be infantry soldiers to go fight, and some of us may do that, but ROTC is built all around developing leadership skills,” Hunter LePla ’19 said. “They put you under pressure. They put one individual in charge of everyone else and say, ‘Here’s your objective, go accomplish it.’ This type of training builds character and strength under pressure, which is needed for any job in the Army.”

A variety of formations and tactics were taught throughout the weekend, and cadets then had the opportunity to put their knowledge into action through practice squad attacks and ambush exercises, to name a few.

An exercise started when the squad leader received information on the mission, which was then relayed to the team. After about an hour of preparation, squads embarked on their simulated mission. One mission involved the cadets defending the fictional country of Krasnovia from terrorists who had moved into the area. At the conclusion of the mission, the squad leaders and cadre (trained active duty Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserves officers) led After Action Reviews (AAR) to provide feedback to the cadets. All told, there were 23 cadre that took part in the training, led by Major Mike Doyle, the 36th Professor of Military Science in CMC’s ROTC’s 100-year history.

Emily Nee ’17, the company commander for CMC’s ROTC, was one of the individuals providing feedback to the underclassmen during the AAR sessions.

“What I am doing is facilitating the exercises,” Nee said about her role. “I am in charge of helping the one or two [squad leaders] have the confidence of knowledge to get through that activity.”

Nee is a neuroscience major at CMC and after graduation plans to attend the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) in Bethesda, Maryland. She successfully competed nationally for a spot at the medical school so she can become an Army doctor. After four years of medical school, she would like to pursue surgery or neurology.

To be commissioned in ROTC and go straight to medical school, Nee went through two main steps: she received approval of educational delay from the ROTC and received acceptance into medical school. Being selected for educational delay required a high grade-point average, a letter of recommendation from Major Doyle, and a high overall ranking in within the individual’s ROTC class. This year there were roughly 70 selected for educational delay slots across all ROTC programs in the nation.

“This is the “Nations Medical School” that trains medical students to be doctors in the Army, Navy or Air Force. USUHS is my dream school because I will have the opportunity to study my passion and serve an incredible community,” Nee said.

While training at Camp Pendleton lasts only three days, the transformation in each cadet’s skillset is noticeable.

Hunter Ashburn ‘17 served as the planning operations officer for the weekend and oversaw the operational planning and logistics:

“The fun part for me is watching the progression of the cadets. We only do two of these each year, and a lot of training gets done,” Ashburn said. “On Sunday morning, they’ll ruck march out carrying 40 pounds on their back with their rifle, canteens and probably 65 to 70 pounds of gear, and they’ll have a smile on their faces as they are walking out because they are really proud of themselves. They are also proud of each other for working as a team with people they haven’t worked with since the fall. So I think watching that progression is what’s the most fun for me.”

A dual major in German and government, Ashburn upon graduation is commissioning into the Armor Branch and active duty, where he will attend the Armor Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Benning, Ga., then U.S. Army Ranger School.  

CMC’s Army ROTC prepares students to be officers in the U.S. Army. Through CMC’s partnership agreements, cadets can attend almost any four-year university, two-year graduate program, or community college in the Inland Empire of Southern California and take Army ROTC through CMC. CMC’s ROTC program is one of the largest in the western half of the United States, with 192 total cadets from Azusa Pacific University, Cal Poly Pomona, UC Riverside, Cal State San Bernardino, Cal Baptist University, CMC and the other Claremont Colleges. Of the 192 cadets, 18 are from CMC, including six seniors.

ROTC at CMC is a five-time per week commitment with physical training three times per week, one class and one leadership lab per week. The primary day for the CMC cadets is Friday, where they start with physical training at 6 a.m., class at 9 a.m., and leadership labs running from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. CMC’s ROTC program is celebrating its 100th Anniversary in February 2018.

For more information, please visit the CMC ROTC webpage or email