Army ROTC cadets to compete in annual Ranger Challenge

Kathryn Monsewicz

Yoga isn’t typical physical training for Kent State’s Army ROTC cadets, but this weekend’s Ranger Challenge competition involves toning down the intensity and upping their mental preparedness.

The Ranger Challenge is an annual competition for the nation’s Army ROTC cadets to challenge themselves physically and mentally and judge them on their military knowledge.

Earlier this month, Kent State Army ROTC, paired with cadets from Youngstown State University and won the preliminary competition against other Northeastern Ohio schools, such as The University of Akron and John Carroll.

The Kent and Youngstown team, chosen based on physical training scores and how well they performed in mental challenges, will advance to the regional competition in Fort Knox, Kentucky, on Nov. 3 and 4.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” said Seth McNutt, a senior criminology and justice studies major. “I’m proud of my guys. We’ve worked hard. We’ve put in a lot of time. We haven’t gone (to regionals) in at least five years.”

This will be McNutt’s fourth year on the Ranger Challenge team. As captain this year, he handles the training of the other cadets in preparation for Fort Knox.

The training focuses heavily on cardio and endurance, including ruck marches — each cadet is given a 35-pound backpack to march with. The preliminary rounds featured a 6-mile ruck march, while the march at Fort Knox will be 12 miles.

“It’s very physically demanding and you just kind of have to embrace the suck,” McNutt said. “But it is fun to do.”

McNutt created PowerPoint slides for the team to study for mental tests and procedures focusing on military knowledge. One of the mental tests is a version of Sudoku, which they did in the preliminary round where participants arranged numbers on a life-size grid to equal a specific total on each side of the grid. Military challenges test a cadet’s knowledge on ropes, tying knots, evaluating a casualty, moving a casualty and having to fire a rifle under pressure. 

In preparation for the Fort Knox competition, the team has been toning down their level of physical training to reduce chance of any injury prior to competition. Although they still do tougher physical training than other cadets who aren’t on the team, they are focusing on the mental side of challenges.

“It’s to prepare and make sure everybody knows what they are doing and knows what their role is at the different events,” McNutt said. 

Blake Bishop, a freshman political science major talked about how it is physical and mental.

“Anything physical you do requires mental capability for you to continue doing that,” Bishop said. “When you’re tired, you have to push through that. It’s 80 percent mental, 20 percent physical.”

Bishop enjoys working with the team and seeing them work together for a common goal.

“You have to have confidence in the man or woman beside you that they’re going to do their job,” Bishop said.

The team will leave early Friday morning for a noon arrival time. They will compete the rest of the day and all of Saturday to complete as many challenges as possible. The team with the best scores in completed challenges will move on to Fort Benning.

If the team should win at the nationwide challenge in Fort Benning, they will be invited to attend one of several U.S. Army Schools, including US Army Airborne Training, US Army Air Assault Training, Internship Programs and many other positions with active-duty units.

Bishop embraced the idea of being a part of the Ranger Challenge team. He mentioned how it would help his and his fellow cadet’s future military careers if they should attend one of the schools.

“Enlisted people get to do this in their career,” he said. “We’re doing this in college, which is a pretty awesome opportunity. Reaping the benefits that would really set you apart from other officers.” 

The Ranger Challenge is another part of what the Army ROTC’s goal is for its students: to become officers in the United States Army and to become leaders. 

“I’ve always liked the sense of camaraderie and leading people,” Bishop said. “People think you’re just giving orders to people. You’re leading others so they can find leadership qualities in themselves.”

Kathryn Monsewicz is the military and veterans reporter. Contact her at [email protected]