A unique collaboration last weekend contributed to an enriching leadership training exercise for cadets in Niagara University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.

Five NU theatre majors acted as role players during Saturday’s portion of the ROTC weekend training exercise, which took place at Chestnut Ridge State Park in Orchard Park, N.Y. The theatre students were involved in the program’s “ambush” lane and played the parts of village elder and villagers during the “key leader engagement” lane.

The KLE trains cadets how to engage a leader while in a different country, either during peace or conflict, and to understand how to manage effective cross-cultural communication. It helps them learn how to develop relationships that lead to greater cooperation between local and U.S. forces. For the remaining soldiers, it is an opportunity for them to understand how to interact with a local populace, influence that population positively, and potentially gather information that may support U.S. operational goals.

The scenario was centered on a fictional town named Crovich in the fictional nation of Atropia. Temperatures hovered between 32 and 45 during the training, with some snow mixed in.

The event marked the first time in recent memory that ROTC and NU Theatre have collaborated on a training exercise, according to Lt. Col. Gary Love, chair of NU’s military science department.

“Talking to the thespians, they enjoyed the fact that it provided them an opportunity to work on their improv skills and gave them a much greater appreciation for what ROTC is and how we are developing our nation’s future leaders,” Lt. Col. Love said. “They also tremendously enjoyed the opportunity to eat an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat), which they all deemed surprisingly edible. Both groups came away from the weekend very happy and agreed to partner together in the future, since it was so rewarding for both sides.”