Cadets battle weather, terrain, each other during Ranger Challenge

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From rain and nearly freezing temperatures, to navigating the hills of Fort Knox, cadets from across U.S. Army Cadet Command’s 1st Brigade faced many challenges this past weekend during the brigade’s annual Ranger Challenge.

The event tested cadets’ basic Soldier skills through various events at locations across the post. Cadets competed in an assortment of tasks like weapons qualification, land navigation, completing the obstacle course, and a 12-mile ruck march. When all was said and done, the University of North Georgia Team A came out the victors with Texas A&M Team A placing second and Virginia Tech Team A rounding out third place.

Col. Sean Barnes, 1st Brigade commander, said his brigade’s Ranger Challenge is built with several end results in mind for those willing to take up the trials of the weekend.

“This is just another step in testing and assessing the character of our young men and women who want to make the military their profession, but even more important, it’s about making leaders,” he said. “We’ve been able to put them under tough conditions this weekend with the weather, and test basic soldiering skills, how to critically think, and how to work as a team.

“At the end of the day though, it’s all about making leaders today that can lead change tomorrow,” he added.

Cadet Sam Rooker, who was on the Virginia Military Institute team for his third year, said he keeps coming back to compete because he enjoys doing something only a select few do.

“I do it because it’s a little more challenging than everything else in ROTC,” said Rooker. “You have to understand that this is an incredibly physically demanding competition, which is great, but it can suck. If you like that kind of thing it can be great for you.”

Cadet James Smith, Mercy University, said while the competition is tough, he’s enjoyed being pushed to his limits.

“It’s been a long week- end. The weather has been a little adversarial, but it builds character. This has been pretty much in line with what we trained for,” he said. “It’s a challenge for sure – but that kind of sets you apart from everyone else. You have to take every chance you can to really stand out and build on your leadership skills.”

Smith also gave some advice for anyone else who may want to join a Ranger Challenge team.

“The whole weekend is a team building exercise so be sure to find a group of people you work well with and be ready for a very physical weekend,” he said.

The winners for each brigade’s Ranger Challenge will represent their brigade against international military academies, seven other ROTC programs, and four U.S. service academies at West Point for the 2018 Sandhurst Military Skills Competition taking place in April.

The U.S. Army Cadet Command is the largest single source of new officers for the Army, commissioning the majority of the Army’s new officers each year through the senior ROTC program. n