By 2nd Lt. Dylan Conover, C/1-79th FAOctober 1, 2019
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Oct. 1, 2019) -- Every morning at Cameron University (CU), ROTC cadets wake up before their peers and train to become proficient and professional Army officers. On Sept. 19, a group of cadets teamed up with Fort Sill's 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery to mix up that training, and give them a taste of what's in their near future.
Annually, select ROTC cadets compete in the Ranger Challenge. This challenge is a multi-school event that tests the cadets' tactical and technical knowledge, resiliency, and teamwork. Schools will assemble teams and compete regionally. The team with the most points after all the events is crowned the challenge winner. This year's Ranger Challenge will be in the fall.
CU's team is led by Cadet Owen Smith, a senior. He is the captain of the team, and makes sure his fellow cadets are up to speed and prepared for the demanding Ranger Challenge.
"We [conduct physical training] Monday through Thursday," said Smith, a sports and exercise science major. "We'll work on some of the main events of the Ranger Challenge, along with physical training … we usually show up 30 minutes before the rest of the [cadets] so we can go over our stuff, just so we're prepared."
The cadets who are going to compete in the Ranger Challenge for CU partnered with 1-79th FA Soldiers to conquer the Combat Obstacle Course (COC) at Fort Sill. The battalion was occupying the COC for the day for its Basic Combat Training mission, but incorporated the cadets into the lanes simultaneously. This allowed the cadets to experience some of the difficult obstacles they would face during the Ranger Challenge.
Smith said the ability to use nearby Fort Sill is a privilege he hopes to turn into an advantage.
"We have the ability to have Soldiers from Fort Sill teach us [things] that other programs do not," Smith said. "We also have the facilities that most other universities do not...like here at the obstacle course, or land navigation. It's a huge opportunity … It's huge that we get to come out here. I think we have a good relationship with Fort Sill and its Soldiers… it's very beneficial."
Lt. Col. Eric Kunak, 1-79th FA commander, said this partnership is an important part of his battalion's larger mission beyond the BCT. He said "working hand-in-hand with Cameron University is important to their cadets and our cadre. We are building the foundation of new and current Army leaders."
Lt. Col. Seth Hall, CU Professor of Military Science, reinforced Smith and Kunak's sentiments, expressing his pleasure with the relationship between Fort Sill and the Cameron University's ROTC program.
"One of the things that differentiates Cameron University from other ROTC's is our partnership with Fort Sill," said Hall. "It benefits our cadets, makes them better leaders of tomorrow. Fort Sill and the 1-79th FA Battalion have been fantastic in growing future officers and we're very thankful for that."
As the CU Ranger Challenge team prepares for the competition, they'll be more prepared. The partnership with Fort Sill, and the efforts of 1-79th FA, gives them an edge that they hope will help them lead the way to victory.