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The Reserve Officers Training Corps at Weber State University will participate in a competition this Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19-20, as the annual Army Ranger Challenge gets under way. Known as the varsity sport of the Army ROTC, the competition will feature teams of nine cadets: eight men and one woman.
These cadets will compete against 15 preselected ROTC teams from six states in a survival race for national recognition and a trip to the New York Ranger Challenge later this year.
“We’re looking forward to the home field advantage,” said Cadet Michael Heath of WSU ROTC. “Traditionally we’ve had to travel, so it’ll be nice to have it in our backyard.”
Teams must consist of ROTC cadets from each academic class, including at least one freshman, sophomore, junior and senior.
“Our team was picked on a combination of fitness, team camaraderie, experience, maturity, toughness and the ability to move the team forward,” said Jeff Stuart, the team coach and WSU ROTC operations and training officer. “Endurance is a huge factor too; they’re going to be out there for 7-8 hours straight and the competition is brutally hard.”
The competition will begin at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning after teams draw their starting position the night before. Teams will leave in 10-minute intervals, depending on their drawn starting order, then begin with a 10-kilometer run (6.2 miles) in full equipment, carrying the supplies needed to accomplish their tasks throughout the day.
“It’s brutal, but it makes for better soldiers and officers,” Stuart said. “You compete the best when you’re prepared to suffer the most. The more you’re willing to deal with exhaustion, fatigue and with blisters, and the more you’re mentally prepared for what’s ahead, the better you’ll do. It’s not going to kill you, but it will make you tough.”
After the run, cadets must cross a rope bridge spanning an estimated 60 feet before navigating to the location of a dummy in need of simulated first aid. The teams must move the 200-pound dummy via ladder up the side of the mountain for a simulated helicopter extraction before facing a leadership reaction course to test their problem-solving abilities. Afterward, the cadets will dissemble and reassemble three different weapons before finally exiting the race by crossing the Jordan River. The locations of the events must be found and navigated to before the team can complete each task.
“In the past, events were scored with varying point values, but this year, the clock is always running,” said Cadet Zachary Lowe, a senior ROTC cadet and three-time Ranger Challenge veteran. “It sucks, but it’s a good experience. Besides, I like the competition; I enjoy the physicality, and I enjoy that it pushes you, which ultimately makes you better.”
Though WSU has fared well in the past, Brigham Young University is the team to beat, having won 28 of the last 30 Ranger Challenges.
“We love to hate BYU,” Stuart laughed as he spoke about the competition. “They’re a very traditional college; they have standard 18-25-year-old kids, they have a good history, they train hard, and they have a Ranger Challenge class where ROTC cadets can earn credit by training for the competition. It gives them a slight advantage, but that’s not our focus.”
Opening ceremonies for the Ranger Challenge will begin at 6 p.m. at the Camp Williams parade grounds. The competition is scheduled to begin at 5 a.m. the following morning.