By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)November 3, 2016
Teams representing 10 university Reserve Officer Training Corps programs hiked their way through Fort Leonard Wood training areas for the chance to be named the best at the Task Force Leonard Wood ROTC Ranger Challenge Saturday.
In the end, the Missouri State University nine-cadet team repeated as champions and the Missouri University of Science and Technology was the all-female champion.
Considered the "varsity sport" of ROTC, Ranger Challenge is similar to the Army's Best Warrior Competition and includes challenges spread out over 18 miles, including land navigation, one-rope bridge building and survival skills designed to test each team's mental and physical endurance.
"This is not an easy competition," said Lt. Col. Ken Hutchison, professor of military science, Pittsburg State University. "It's a gauntlet. We've taken it to a whole new level this year."
This year, unlike years past, the Ranger Challenge was designed as a continuous event, Hutchison said. Each team had to fully complete each operational test before continuing the operation.
It was a change that forced the teams to prepare differently.
"Last year, for our training, we prepared for the ruck, which was a lot shorter than it is now," said Caitlyn Lee, captain of the Truman State University nine-person cadet team. "The entire event now is a ruck, so we have been doing a lot more weight and a lot more distances."
Teams trained as much as 10 hours a week, in addition to other school activities and personal responsibilities to be a part of the all-volunteer competition, Hutchison said.
Missouri State University nine-person team member and first-time competitor, Daniel Wilcoxen, said their team trained for two hours a day, five days a week doing strict physical fitness to prepare for the competition.
With only one member of the Missouri State team returning from last year's winning team, Wilcoxen still said the team was ready to defend their title.
"We feel prepared," he said, before the competition kicked off. "We are just focused on doing this as fast as we can."
Ranger Challenge started with each team running through the physical endurance confidence course. The times on the course determined the starting position for the competition.
After loading up their gear at the endurance course, teams hit the road toward the first objective, land navigation. From there, teams started to separate themselves as some completed tasks faster than others.
Missouri State University retained the title by completing the course in just under 12 hours.
The top teams will represent the region at the U.S. Army Cadet Command 3rd Brigade competition to be held at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Saturday.