WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- In the cool, autumn mornings at the Watervliet Arsenal when most folks and machines were asleep, 10 of the Army's future leaders were hard at work. In and about hallowed land and buildings whose rich history date back to 1813, cadets from the local Siena College ROTC program silently trained.

The Arsenal is well known for its manufacturing of cannons, mortars, and artillery pieces for the U.S. military, but not for providing the training ground for future leaders Aca,!aEURc until now.

Army ROTC programs across the United States don't just produce officers for the Army, although that may be the hope behind every professor of military science. The program also strengthens leader development, mental and physical ability, team building, and a competitive spirit in all students who sign up for ROTC instruction, regardless of whether or not they see the program through to commissioning.

But these 10 are not the typical cadets that one may find on any number of college campuses. This is not to critique other cadets but to simply say they are different. The term "better" is a relative term and a term these cadets would never admit to and so, for this story the term "different" should suffice.

What makes them different is the high degree of motivation and personal sacrifice that they displayed in their recent journey to Fort Devens, Mass., to compete in what is called a "Ranger Challenge," a varsity sport on college campuses.

Collegiate Army ROTC programs compete annually in a grueling two-day Ranger Challenge. For these Siena cadets, their competition meant the completion of two long months of training, often at the Watervliet Arsenal, to prepare for 10 physically and mentally challenging events.

These cadets averaged about 10 more hours of training every week than their cadet peers at Siena. The team also conducted physical training five days a week from 5:50 a.m. to 8 a.m., many times at the Watervliet Arsenal.

According to Cadet Robert Shalvoy, this is where personal sacrifice came in Aca,!aEURc especially for a college student. "Because of the additional hours required to train, getting up early to train, and maintaining all other college requirements, meant that we did not go out at night or on weekends," said Shalvoy.

For many college students, and even for some at the Arsenal, that is sacrilegious.

The rigorous training process began at Siena last spring, Cadet Thomas Seagroatt said. "I worked closely with Capt. (Danny) Frieden to develop a training plan that had tough physical training as its foundation," Seagroatt added. Seagroatt was the team captain and Frieden was the active Army instructor at Siena College who was the team's coach.

Frieden said the training was developed to challenge cadets physically, mentally, and to filter out those who were not yet ready to compete at the varsity level.

There are about 100 cadets in the Siena College ROTC program. Twenty-three tried out for the Ranger Challenge and 10 eventually made the team. Of the 10, one was female.

These cadets competed against ROTC programs from: Boston University; Clarkson University; Fordham University; Hofstra University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Northeastern University; Providence College; Rochester Institute of Technology; St. John's University; Syracuse University; University of Connecticut; University of Maine; University of Massachusetts; University of New Hampshire, University of Vermont; University of Rhode Island, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

On 23 Oct., the Challenge began. Over the course of two days, the cadets would compete in such events as: a leader reaction course; Army Physical Fitness Course; patrolling; traversing a one-rope bridge; the hand grenade assault course, a 10km road march; orienteering; reconnaissance; medical proficiency; and marksmanship with an M-16 rifle.

Despite the team's intense preparation, there was an intangible on the field of competition that they could not train for nor did they have a sense of its measurement prior to competing. Some may call it "motivation," but Cadet Andrew Lavallie called it "emotion."

"When you are on your last day of competition and you have the 10km road march left to complete, it was emotion that compelled us to share the weight of the rucksacks (25-pound packs). It was emotion that kept us moving forward, even though we were 'misdirected' for about 2km. And, it was emotion that all of us finished together, as a team," said Lavallie.

The team is now back at college having just completed their mid-terms.

And, if you have made it this far in the story Aca,!aEURc the Siena College team beat the competition and came home with the Ranger Challenge Trophy. As a result of their superlative performance, they have earned the right to compete next spring at the United States Military Academy against the other first-place teams from across the country.

When one talks to these cadets, they should get a sense that the future of the Army's officer corps will be just fine. These are great young men and women who have stepped up to the challenge during a time of war.

The Watervliet Arsenal is proud of the team's achievements and proud to be the official training ground of the Siena College Ranger Challenge champions.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16