Page 18, MARCH 2014
VMI Institute Report
Air Force Cadets Endure ‘CRO Show’
Three VMI Air Force ROTC
cadets, Jordan Hollowell ’14,
Keith MacDonald ’14, and Daniel
Warner ’14, who aspire to become
combat rescue officers, or CROs,
participated in the orientation
program known as the “CRO Show”
at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in
Tucson, Ariz., Dec. 15-21, 2013.
This week-long mock CRO
training program was riddled with
stress inoculation that, MacDonald
said, made the Rat Line seem
like a cakewalk. The CRO Show
gave participants a taste of the
demanding training necessary to
prepare CROs for operations in
A CRO is tasked with the command and control of combat search
and rescue operations. CROs lead units of elite combat ground troops
specifically trained and equipped to conduct personnel recovery, “that
others may live … to return with honor.”
After a rigorous selection process, CROs undergo extensive training to
include an Advanced Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape course;
Army Airborne School; Navy Underwater Egress Training; Army Military
Free Fall Parachutist School; and Air Force Combat Diver School.
The CRO Show is intended to be a challenge for all candidates.
“Everyone struggled, no matter how experienced or prepared they
were,” said MacDonald.
From the start of their adventure, cadets began their regimen at
5:30 a.m. with a hearty breakfast, followed by a two-hour morning
physical training session that
was administered by Air Force
pararescue jumpers and CROs.
Each day presented a different
workout, ranging from cardio-
vascular training to functional
fitness training. Cadets would
then conduct and receive briefings
on the CRO career field for a few
hours, but would then move on to
the greatest challenge of all – the
notorious pool sessions.
During these sessions, cadets
took part in various adversarial
underwater confidence exercises
geared at simulating near-
drowning experiences and stormy
sea conditions in order to prepare
them for operations involving water evacuations. These pool sessions
included performing flutter kicks with fins while having their masks
filled with water. They also performed underwater swims while being
harassed, as well as water-oriented calisthenics and buddy breathing
Participants forged meaningful bonds and developed a strong sense
of camaraderie among their peers. One of the biggest takeaways was
the ideal of “buddy/team before self,” said Warner.
Hollowell noted that the cadets also learned important lessons in
teamwork, perseverance, and determination.
“One thing I heard that stuck with me as a team leader: your team is
your lifeline,” said Hollowell. “Without it you are nothing, and without
you, it is nothing.”
Cadets participate in training at combat rescue officer orientation.
– Photo courtesy of Air Force ROTC.
Continued from page 15
Likely because of this, said Hardin, the cadets have shown an interest
that’s truly contagious.
While the cadets were designing their can crushers in the fall, he said,
“I would walk out into the study area and the [cadets] would say, ‘Colonel
Hardin, Colonel Hardin, come over here! Let me show you this.’”
It’s just that kind of can’t-stay-still enthusiasm that Hardin and Sullivan
want to see. Letting cadets put their engineering skills to use as early as
possible, they believe, will help with retention and motivation.
Last year, the department surveyed its 4th Class cadets about their like
or dislike of open-ended problem solving, and also their likelihood of
switching majors. The results, which were presented to the American
Society of Engineering Educators, showed a very clear relationship
between enjoyment of open-ended problem solving and a cadet’s desire
to continue with the major.
“We saw it as an assessment tool of aptitude, interest, and inclination,”
said Hardin. “Eventually, all engineering becomes much more open-ended.”
Ultimately, said Hardin and Sullivan, the goal is to have all of the
department’s coursework tied to time in a design studio, which would
stress real-world application of engineering principles from the moment
4th Class cadets begin their coursework.
Bringing this concept to full fruition will require physical space, and
while they consider possible solutions to the space problem, Hardin and
Sullivan have proceeded to implement the idea behind the studio.
“The physical manifestation of the design studio may be a ways off
yet,” noted Sullivan, “but the design studio ideas we have integrated into
our curriculum are already making a difference in the way our students
think about engineering.”
Hardin added, “Kids have a tendency to compartmentalize the
information by course, not seeing that it’s connected. We want them to
see, ‘These are tools we want you to use.’”
Learning mechanical engineering, the department head noted, is not
unlike learning a language. Just as the ultimate goal of studying a foreign
language is to be able to communicate in that language, the ultimate goal
of studying engineering is to be able to solve problems with structures
in the real world.
And just as a language major has learned a grammar and syntax, the
engineer has learned skills and concepts.
“I want them to understand what they have in their toolbox,” said Sullivan.