Termed the “varsity sport” of Army ROTC, Ranger Challenge Competitions are held across the nation each October, with some of the very best cadets from each program coming together for a grueling competition. This year nine cadets from the Royal Warrior Battalion traveled to Fort Dix, N.J., Oct. 5-7 to participate in the 2nd ROTC “Freedom” Brigade competition against 40 other ROTC programs from New York, New Jersey, New England and Pennsylvania. In addition, Ranger Challenge teams from both the United States Military Academy at West Point and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis took part in the event.
The Royal Warriors arrived on Friday afternoon quickly in-processing and settling into their barracks. Following an inbrief for team captains by the 2nd ROTC Brigade Operations Sergeant, the Royal Warriors had time to quickly formulate some last-minute strategy and conduct one final check of equipment before it was lights out Friday night. For the Royal Warriors, it was an early start on Saturday with wake-up coming at 4 a.m. and the team crossing the start line at 6:30 a.m. Donning rucksacks, weapons and helmet, the team set out across the Fort Dix training area where over the next five hours they would road march nearly seven miles, in addition to completing nine different stations along the route.
The first stops for the Royal Warrior included the obstacle and confidence courses, where working as a team they negotiated the two physically demanding courses. As the day progressed, the cadets found themselves constructing and then cross a one-rope bridge, rappelling, throwing hand grenades, assembling and disassembling weapons, and conducting a mission to rescue and administer first aide to a downed aircraft pilot. Perhaps the most challenge event was the zodiac boat station where the cadets were required to transport a zodiac raft, as well as all their gear nearly a third of a mile over land to the water’s edge, launch the raft and paddle around the prescribed channel markers. Cadets then moved the raft back over the same distance to the original start point. Time and again throughout the competition each cadet was tested on their ability to work as part of a team, exercise their problem solving abilities, demonstrate their physical fitness, as well as their ability to effectively communicate.
“During this year’s Ranger Challenge competition, I believe that our team was not only physically challenged, but mentally as well,” said Military Science Level III Cadet Hope Oliver. “This competition made us use leadership skills under pressure and pushed us to our limits. I believe that this competition allowed us as cadets to see where our leadership skills are now and how we can improve to become greater officers in the military down the road.”
“This event was one of the most challenging and enduring I have seen in my 20 years in the U.S. Army,” stated Senior Military Instructor Master Sergeant Roland Cuellar. “Our University of Scranton cadets performed extremely well and experienced an event like no other. They did not just learn about themselves and their physical limitations, they learned the importance of physical and mental toughness under extreme conditions and the how critical it is to operate as a team.”
Ranger Challenge affords cadets the opportunity to gain additional training on their basic military skills, hone leadership skills, as well as test themselves both mentally and physically. This year the team began preparing for the competition a week prior to the start of classes.
Following the Brigade Award Ceremony early Sunday morning, the Royal Warriors made the journey back to Scranton and were already beginning to focus on preparing for the 2013 Ranger Challenge competition. Among the University of Scranton cadets who earned a spot on the Royal Warrior Battalion team this year were Military Science Level IV Cadet Sean Cogan, Military Science Level III Cadets Hope Oliver, Alexander Flynn and Christian Burne, Military Science Level II Cadet Graham Henderson and Military Science Level I Cadet Brian Walsh.
The Royal Warrior Battalion's Ranger Challenge team guides their zodiac raft across the water during the Ranger Challenge competition.