Fort McCoy News Nov. 13, 2015

ROTC cadets compete in Ranger Challenge

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

More than 200 Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets and staff with U.S. Army Cadet Command's 3rd Brigade participated in the brigade's 2015 Ranger Challenge competition at Fort McCoy Oct. 23-25.

The three-day Ranger Challenge covered marksmanship, knowledge, teamwork, physical fitness, and land-navigation challenges, as well as an 11k road march. Five nine-person male teams and five five-person female teams competed in the challenge.

Photo 1
Cadets participate in a timed weapons-assembly event as part of the Ranger Challenge.

Maj. Luciano Picco, S-3 operations officer at 3rd Brigade Headquarters at Great Lakes Naval Training Base, Ill., said the competition features the "best of the best" from the brigade's 40-plus host programs and multiple-partner ROTC programs.

"The cadets who were here … were the best out of their individual task-force level," Picco said. "That's why we made (the competition) tough. We really wanted to challenge these cadets to really do their best."

All of the competition took place on Fort McCoy's South Post. The teams and staff were based out of Forward Operating Base Freedom, and events were held at several training areas and ranges.

"Fort McCoy is the best place for this (competition)," said Robert Moore, chief of operations and training at 3rd Brigade Headquarters. "It's a good, central location close to our brigade headquarters."

On the opening day of competition, the teams participated in marksmanship and weapons challenges at Ranges 101 and 102. According to Moore, this included the sight-adjustment and qualification of their primary weapon — the M16 — and a challenge that included the assembly and disassembly of those weapons.

The second day may have been the longest of the competition. It opened with the teams competing in a 11k force march that began at 5 a.m. The march was followed by 10 hours of additional team challenges, which included five land-navigation routes and five special competition stations. It also included a nighttime land-navigation challenge.

"The five stations were the hand-grenade assault challenge, commander's challenge, medical challenge, tactical challenge, and the one-rope bridge challenge," Moore said. "Each team had to complete each challenge in 45 minutes or less."

On the final day, the cadet teams started their day at Rumpel Fitness Center, where they began a physical-fitness challenge. Each team member completed two minutes of pushups, two minutes of situps, a 2-mile run, and more.

"They then moved right into the conditioning and confidence course," Moore said. "The Ranger Challenge (overall) was designed to test them from start to finish."

At the end of the competition, only the top team moves on to compete at the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., in April 2016.

Photo 2
ROTC cadets complete pushups in between firing their weapons during the marksmanship competition.

Winners of the competition were:

• Nine-Person All-Male Team — 1. *Marquette University, Wis.; 2. Wheaton College, Ill.; and 3. Saint John's University, Minn. (*denotes only team participating in Sandhurst competition)

• Five-Person All-Female Team — 1. Marquette University; 2. Missouri State University; and 3. Wheaton College.

Cadet Jordan Lemens, a team member on the winning Marquette University All-Female Team, said being a part of the Ranger Challenge team is special.

"When you are a part of this team, you learn a lot about teamwork and delegation," Lemens said. "We knew coming into this competition that it was going to be mentally and physically challenging, but I like it. When you are in the Ranger Challenge team, you get a lot of hands-on training and leadership challenges."

Cadet Matthew Miller, a team member with the Iowa State University Ranger Challenge team, also enjoyed the competition.

"The competition is good because it concentrates on Soldier skills, team tactics, and teamwork," Miller said. "From a tactical aspect, this is really good for the guys. It helps build better leaders in tactical and technical competencies."

Picco said every competitor at every level should get something positive from the competition because that's the way it was designed.

"Leadership is the No. 1 thing that we do," Picco said. "Building leaders, not only for the future but also for life, is what we do at these kinds of events. Knowing the basics, applying the basics, then applying critical thinking on top of that is really what we want these cadets to go through and get out of this challenge."

Completing the brigade's Ranger Challenge at Fort McCoy, with its numerous training areas, ranges, and other support at their disposal, was especially helpful in making the challenge successful once again, Picco said.

"The amount of land and the facilities here are really what we count on to be able to conduct a brigade-level exercise of this capacity," Picco said. "We prefer to coming up here instead of other (places) because everything here is so user-friendly. The people here also are great at allowing us to set up all the areas we need."

The Ranger Challenge also was held outside the busiest training months of the year at Fort McCoy (May through September).

Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Director Brad Stewart said year-round training by units is growing on post, and it's part of the reason a record 155,237 people trained at Fort McCoy during fiscal year 2015.

"Fort McCoy has built the culture of not telling units no, but helping units determine the best options to achieve their training objectives," Stewart said.

"Fort McCoy is open to training 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Therefore, training can happen here anytime outside of or in addition to our standard transient unit exercise and training time period. We will continue to see an increase in training numbers and training occurring in the fall and winter-weather timeframes."

For more information about the Cadet Command's 3rd Brigade, go online to http://www.cadetcommand.army.mil/brigades.aspx#3rd.