By Mr. Michael Maddox (ROTC)February 1, 2017
FORT KNOX, Ky. (Jan. 28, 2017) -- After several months of competitions involving many hours of sweat, blisters and physical and mental exhaustion, some of Cadet Command's best of the best have been named winners in their respective brigade's Ranger Challenge competition.
While no two Ranger Challenge events were exactly the same, Cadets from each of the command's eight brigades faced a variety of tasks that tested their hearts, minds and bodies. Their physical, mental and tactical abilities were measure though a mixture of events like the Army Physical Fitness Test, one-rope bridge construction, land navigation, weapons assembly, tactical combat casualty care, night operations, waterborne operations, ruck marching, hand grenade proficiency, and weapons qualification.
Col. Nelson Kraft, 6th Brigade commander, said while Ranger Challenge recognizes the hard work Cadets put in to succeed, it also teaches them lesson they can carry throughout their careers.
"I see Ranger Challenge as the major training event for the best of the best at each of our programs. We have some great Cadets that do other activities, but I think most would agree that Ranger Challenge is the most difficult one and it requires the biggest commitment," he said. "They will be able to take this and apply it to their training back on campus and lead the way inside their programs -- ultimately making their entire programs better."
Cadet Brandon Sinnott, from the University of Alabama, said he thinks being a part of a Ranger Challenge team has given him experience that will be useful throughout a lifetime.
"I've been doing this for three years now, it's pretty mentally and physically straining but we pushed through. This competition challenges you to be better than who you already are by pushing your limits and seeing just what you're made of," he said. "The mental toughness it takes to compete in something like this - you carry it forward no matter what you do in the future, whether it be in the military or the business world."
Col. Dan Kelley, 1st Brigade commander, said one of the keys to being a successful team in any environment is the ability to adapt to a situation. He said this was one of the considerations during planning for his brigade's competition.
"Back when I was a Cadet we were preparing to fight the Soviet Union, so it was more of a "lock step" and rigid event to prepare for. Because of that, I knew as team captain exactly what I would do there and that there would be certain events, so we prepared for those events," he explained. "The difference here is that we are trying to teach them to thrive in ambiguity and complexity -- which supports the mission of winning in a complex world, often times against an unknown enemy. We give them some general guidance of things they will do here, but we don't give them exact information."
Cadet Riley Hein, University of Washington, said learning to work as a team was key to being successful at Ranger Challenge.
"You have to be ready to discard the word "I" for a while so you can adapt to a team culture and trust the people around you," he said. "Everything here will help you out in the future no matter your path. You have to know how to handle physical and mental challenges, and you have to figure out how you are going to approach each one, as a team."
Having to think and make decisions coupled with being mentally and physically tired allowed the Cadets to see what they are made of, said. Col. Jon Tussing, 8th Brigade commander.
"We wanted to make sure it was a top of the line event where we would push all of the Cadets to grow their personal reserves and mental toughness, so that it will carry through to when they become lieutenants. I think we've been pretty successful at that," he said. "These Cadets get up earlier, do more PT, they learn a lot of skills along the way, and I think the benefit from them pushing themselves like that will pay off in the long run. Each time they do it, they build up that reserve so some time when the chips are down in the future and they need to go back and tap into that strength, and they are going to have it."
Daniel Montesa, University of Washington, said while being on a Ranger Challenge team is a lot of work, it's all worth it in the end.
"You have to be ready for a lot of early mornings, to do PT on your own, and be able to embrace the "suck" because some of those morning you may not really want to be there but you know that all of the training is going to pay off in the end," he said. "But I really like the physical aspect of it and trying to push yourself past your limits. I also like being part of such a tight-knit group, working hard together in the mornings when other people might be sleeping - it brings us together pretty closely and I like that a lot."
Winners by brigade are:
1st Brigade -- Texas A&M
2nd Brigade - University of New Hampshire
3rd Brigade -- St. John's University
4th Brigade - The Johns Hopkins University
5th Brigade - University of Texas
6th Brigade -- University of Alabama
7th Brigade - Michigan State University
8th Brigade -- Gonzaga University