Photo: File photo
The Ranger Challenge is an annual competition in which Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets compete regionally in various physical and military challenges.
“The challenge is designed to see how far you can go with as little sleep and food as possible,” junior cadet Matthew Jones said.
This year’s regional challenge took place on Oct. 8 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Drake’s ROTC team placed sixth out of 17 teams at the competition.
“That is a really good place for a private university,” senior Lt. Patrick Hendrickson said. “To beat teams from large schools, like Kansas State and Iowa State, that’s amazing.”
On the day of the challenge, Drake’s ROTC team woke at 5 a.m. to complete a timed physical training test. This included sit-ups and pushups, and it was completed in full uniform. Without a break, the team arranged itself for a timed 10-kilometer ruck run, in which cadets run in formation, each with a 30 pound ruck sack on his back, a helmet and a weapon.
The team received a short break before being sent into the woods to find 19 land navigation points, each about a mile away from another. The team was armed with only a map and a protractor.
Six of the land navigation points included events the team had to complete.
“It was the most mentally and physically exerting day I’ve gone through,” first-year cadet Sydney Namanny said. “But you just can’t stop.”
The first event was a one-rope bridge, where the team had to cross a stream of water using a rope while being timed.
Another event was called sensitive site exploitation. During this event, the team studied an abandoned car and was required to remember details about the car and the objects inside it. Then the team was quizzed on the details of the site and required to speculate about the nature of the person who owns the vehicle.
The third event navigation point was a hand grenade assault course. The team used dummy grenades and had to run in and out of cover.
Another event required team members to disassemble and assemble a M16 rifle while being timed.
The fifth event was called the crucible and was also timed. It required team members to transport certain equipment to another area, ranging from a light ruck sack to a large tire.
The final event the team completed was a scored rifle marksmanship competition.
After completing all six navigation event points, the team rushed to find the other 13 navigation points. By this time, it was walking in the woods in the dark. The team returned at 10 p.m., with several teams still searching into the early morning hours of the next day. Namanny stressed the amount of teamwork these events involved.
“Everyone has their own struggles they’re dealing with,” she said. “It took a lot of teamwork to complete the events.”
During this time, graduate cadet and team captain Curtis Nielsen led the squad. He was responsible for the equipment and the welfare of his fellow cadets. The team captain is traditionally a senior, but his team members praised him for doing a great job with less training than most captains have.
“It was the toughest day I’ve ever had, but I’ll do it again,” Nielsen said.
Drake’s ROTC team was composed of nine cadets, with each cadet receiving a ready-to-eat meal, the only food each had during the day. By the end of the day, the cadets had blisters, were hungry and dehydrated and were exhausted.
“We’ve talked to people in the military who say they have never gone through a day as hard as this in their whole career,” Nielsen said.
Drake’s ROTC team trained for a month and a half prior to the competition. Training included physical training most weekday mornings at 6 a.m. In addition, ROTC cadets are required to take courses on military proficiency and a hands-on lab where cadets learn how to complete military missions.
“When we were done, it was a really great feeling to know all the effort we put in had paid off,” Nielsen said. “We’re better people and better leaders for having gone through it.”