SU ROTC Ranger Challenge team, an inside look by Cadet Casey Strunk
Pursuing a career as a U.S. Army officer is a path that very few individuals take because of the dedication and discipline required to be an effective leader. A common path to becoming an officer is through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). ROTC is comprised of cadets who attend colleges all across the nation and work rigorously both academically and also to enhance themselves as military leaders. Cadets have the opportunity to get involved in a number of activities while enrolled in ROTC, with the most prestigious being Ranger Challenge (RC). The RC team is comprised of nine cadets and two alternates who try out for the team and are selected by the team captain. The team competes annually at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Shippensburg University Raider Battalion competes in the 2nd Freedom Brigade, which encompasses the entire northeast portion of the U.S., from Pennsylvania to Maine. Cadet Billy Graham, who plans to be an active duty Army officer, led this year’s RC team. Under the mentor-ship of U.S. Army Captain Nathaniel Sebren, Graham continually displayed his leadership presence by developing and training the team at a high level.
As an RC cadet, the expectations to perform are set to a higher standard. RC cadets train Monday through Saturday, with evening training periodically throughout the week. On top of a 17-credit-hour academic week, the normal responsibilities of a cadet and any other campus involvement, RC requires cadets to utilize their time more efficiently. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, RC conducts physical training. This consists of any workout from Crossfit (a fitness company) style physical training to log carries to 50-pound ruck marches. Ruck marching, which is a high-intensity combination of running and walking while wearing a framed backpack, is one of the most crucial areas for the team to excel in. At the competition, the team conducted two ruck marches, each being six miles long and requiring every member of the team to push themselves to their own limit. The responsibility of coordinating and leading physical training was taken on by Coby Sullivan, the cadet non-commissioned officer in charge. Graham and Sullivan worked hand-in-hand and to ensure the team was in the best physical condition possible to be competitive against the rest of the Freedom Brigade. As the semester progressed, the team began to run farther, ruck with more weight and come together as one cohesive unit. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were used to train in a variety of skill-based events. In addition to the physical endurance that is necessary to compete, RC cadets also have to display a high capability to adapt to any scenario with speed and proficiency.
The 2nd Brigade reformatted the traditional RC competition from a select few events that did not assess how the teams performed in practical scenarios, to a new infantry-based competition that required teamwork, resiliency and tactical training in order for the team to be successful. The team participated in the following events at the competition: react to contact, knock out a bunker, squad attack, first aid and calling for a 9-line medevac request, sand bag fills, crew drills, 9 vs. 9 paintball, the Phalanx and the haka dance. Facing all-new challenges, Graham knew that he had to develop his young team in order to do well at the competition.