W&M cadets to participate in ranger challenge competition

ROTC cadets from the College of William and Mary get a taste next week of what it takes to be part one of the Army’s most elite forces.Photo: William and Mary ROTC Cadet Stephen Draheim (front doing push-ups) and Cadet Jennifer Purser (standing) participate in last year's Ranger Challenge Competition. By Maj. Don Caughey.

William and Mary students will join dozens of cadets from colleges and universities in Virginian and North Carolina to compete in the Eastern Region (ROTC) 4th Brigade’s Ranger Challenge at Fort Pickett, Va. The annual event will be held Oct. 27-29 and features the best cadets of 19 schools who compete in a series of events – the Army physical fitness test, basic rifle marksmanship, construction and execution of a one-rope bridge, patrolling, weapons assembly, orienteering, hand grenade assault course and a 10-kilometer road march. Last year, William and Mary finished in fifth place among 30 teams.

“It really is an extraordinary event – the dedication and preparation these young men and women put into this is incredible,” said Lt. Col. Rick Monahan, professor of military science at William and Mary. “It allows each ROTC program to bring out their most fit and well trained cadets to compete in a grueling 18-hour team competition. Cadets train for weeks to be selected for the Ranger Challenge team, and then they train for weeks more to prepare for the actual competition. The demands are on par with any collegiate fall sport – except in this sport the whole season comes down to just one game.”

The focus of the event is not so much about individual performance as it is about team success, organizers said. The idea behind the event is to foster camaraderie and test individuals’ leadership abilities. Team scores for most events will be the average of individual performances; other events will be based solely on group times.

Beginning on the Friday afternoon, Monahan said, each team of 10 cadets takes the Army fitness test for team points. If cadets expect to make the leader board, he added, cadets must complete 90-100 perfect push-ups and 100 perfect sit-ups in two minutes and run two miles in less than 13 minutes. All teams then move to conduct night land navigation in dense woods where they earn points based on their ability to locate points in the dark, he said. After a short rest in the woods, the cadets are back up at dawn to begin an entire day of tasks, including day land navigation, rifle marksmanship, as well as completing a hand grenade assault course, an obstacle course, a written land navigation test and a mystery event where cadets are asked to react to an unknown situation. The competition concludes with a 10-kilometer foot march, Monahan said.

“The teams carry over 40 pounds of equipment and their movement between all of these events are timed,” he said. “By the end of the competition, they will easily cover 25K with all of their equipment and with very little rest.”