ROTC Cadets Take First Place in Regional Challenge

Posted: November 9, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: January 25, 2010 at 3:28 pm

By Dave Andrews

Back on campus, rigorous physical training is a routine part of the ROTC program. Photo by Evan Cantwell

On campus, rigorous physical training is a routine part of the ROTC program. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Try running a 10K through sand and mud while wearing boots and hefting a 35-pound backpack. Then, see how easy it is to smile when you’re done.

Mason’s ROTC cadets had no trouble smiling big for the camera while hoisting a First Place Overall trophy at a recent two-day Ranger Challenge competition held at Fort Bragg, N.C. Mason’s team beat out 39 other teams from major institutions from throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

Each team was made up of nine cadets who participated in eight different events.

“I was so impressed with how well our team competed. They were the most complete team there,” says Army ROTC Capt. Jeff Soule, who coached Mason’s team during the competition. “By placing at or near the top in every single event, it was very apparent that they had trained incredibly hard.”

Team members were: graduate student Matt Sardo (team captain); freshmen David Hanlon and Brian Kemp; sophomores Mike Johnson, Patrick Lyons and Kevin Smith; junior Jason Seifert; and seniors Shelley McNamee and Steyer Rehorn.

Mason took home not just one, but two, first-place trophies — one for the Gold Division (the group of larger institutions) and another for coming in first overall among all 39 teams.

The first event could be considered a pretty good workout for an average Joe, but it was just a warm-up for these guys. The cadets did two minutes of pushups, then two minutes of sit-ups, followed by a two-mile run. After each team was graded and scored, 15 out of the 39 teams, including Mason, scored above the “Standard High” point total.

“That speaks to how highly trained the competition was, and about the quality of the ROTC programs we were competing against,” Soule says.

Mason's Challenge Team with their trophies at Fort Bragg. Photo courtesy Mason ROTC

Mason's Challenge Team with their trophies at Fort Bragg. Photo courtesy of Mason ROTC

Mason then took first place in the Day/Land-Nav event. Each team was given a map to navigate to several specific locations through a wooded area using only a compass and successfully return to the starting location within a short period of time. A similar night event took place, in which Mason placed second.

The next day, the teams competed in a simulated combat zone known as the “EST 2000.” The cadets fired at targets from distances ranging between 50 to 300 meters away. Each target would only appear for two to three seconds at a time. After being graded on time and accuracy, Mason’s team took second place in the event.

Next came the Grenade Assault Course, which Soule says is as fun as it sounds. The teams strategically move through the 300-meter-long course, throwing grenades at specific targets from various positions. Mason took third place overall based on speed and accuracy.

The One Rope Bridge event required all nine cadets and all of their gear to successfully cross a stream using only one rope. It took the team just two minutes and 15 seconds from start to finish, placing them second overall (10 seconds behind the leader).

The final event that day was a 10-kilometer “Ruck Run.” During the race, each fully uniformed cadet is loaded down with a 35-pound backpack, plus a canteen, ammunition and their weapon. It took Mason’s team just one hour and 24 minutes to complete the run, finishing in first place. Only five out of all 39 teams were able to finish in less than one hour and 30 minutes.

“This was an off-road course consisting of mostly sand and mud,” Soule says. “When our cadets were training for this event, under normal weather conditions they could complete it in just under an hour. That tells you just how tough the [weather element was].”

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