ROTC cadets prepare for Ranger competition

Katherine Colucy

Sean Gregg, (left) freshman justice studies major, Joe Calabretta, freshman exploratory major, and other ROTC members do drills during their weekly lab. Calabretta plans on joining the Ranger team next year.

Credit: Steve Schirra

Members of the Army ROTC’s Ranger challenge team will be sharpening their war-fighting skills when they compete against 17 other schools at the Army Ranger challenge Oct. 15. 

 Lt. Col. Dean Costas, director of the Army ROTC, said the Ranger challenge was designed to prepare cadets for combat-type situations, which many of them could be involved in within the next year.

“I think the whole program is excellent in that it’s reinforcing the physical requirements and the overall training required for war fighting,” Costas said. “It reinforces the physical and tactical skills needed.”

The challenge, which takes place at Fort Knox, Ky., includes events like a physical fitness test, land navigation and patrolling.

Dan Huff, the Ranger challenge team leader and senior justice studies major, has been to the challenge three times and said his favorite event is a 10-kilometer road march.

“I always look forward to the road march because it’s the end of the day, and you’re getting ready to finish everything up,” Huff said. “You run it as fast as you can to see who can finish first.”

Senior justice studies major Eric Chapman has also been to the challenge three times and said his favorite event is the rope bridge.

Chapman said in the rope bridge event, one team member crosses a river with a rope and ties it to a tree. The other team members then tie their end to a tree, and all but one of them climb across the rope hanging upside down. The last team member, which is Chapman, then unties the rope and runs across the river to join his team.

Chapman said the only bad part about the event is the water in the river he has to cross is usually cold.

“When you’re in the moment you don’t really feel the cold, but once the event is over, you are left standing around in soaking wet clothes in the cold air,” Chapman said.

During each event, judges observe the teams and assign points based on performance. The team with the most points wins.

To prepare for the challenge, cadets train five days a week.

“Most of us have to get up at 5:30 because training starts at 6,” Huff said. “Monday, Wednesday and Friday we do physical fitness. Tuesday and Thursday are technical training days, which includes things like weapons assembly and disassembly, land navigation, hand grenades and patrolling.”

Huff said all Army ROTC cadets are welcome to attend the Ranger challenge training, but only 10 cadets and two alternates will be chosen to compete at the challenge.

“The best of the best come out, and we have to narrow that down to 10 people,” Huff said. “There are people competing right now that won’t be able to go. We still have to narrow down our selection.”

Huff, along with the Sgt. 1st Class Stewart McGeahy, the Ranger team coach, will be deciding soon who will go to the challenge. Some of the criteria used to determine what cadets will go is their physical fitness level, knowledge of Army tasks and basic soldier tasks.

Because the university is only sending one team, Costas said he is unsure what place the team will take.

“The more teams you can put on the field, the better you are going to do in standings,” Costas said. “Because schools vary in size so much it’s tough to tell where you’ll finish in the rankings. Your percentage of possibility of winning goes up with the more teams you have.”

Regardless of what place the team takes, he has no doubt that it will be competitive because they are motivated and prepared, Costas said.

“Their training program is well done,” Costas said. “They are motivated and experienced. We have a very good group of cadets from the past few years that have experienced the ranger challenge. We also have some excellent younger cadets that have taken on the challenge and are doing very well.”

Chapman said he is excited about the competition, but is unsure how the team will do.

“We’ve got a lot of new people that came out for the team this year,” Chapman said. “It will be difficult, but we usually go down there thinking we are going to do horrible, and then we usually do pretty well. We set the standards so high.”

Huff said he enjoys going to the challenge every year and is looking forward to competing against the other schools.

“It’s always exciting,” Huff said. “You get really fired up once you get down there and all the other teams are there. Your blood really gets pumping on the morning of the competition once everyone is out there.”

Contact ROTC reporter Katherine Colucy at [email protected].