Seven things to know before Sandhurst 2020
By Brandon O'Connor, USMA at West PointMarch 6, 2020
The annual Sandhurst Military Skills Competition takes place at the U.S. Military Academy April 17 and 18. The competition has undergone multiple changes since it started in 1967 and in its current form is a two-day competition featuring teams from West Point, ROTC, and other foreign and domestic military academies. Here is what you need to know before the competition starts:1. All in the nameWhile it is called the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition after the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom, the annual competition has always been held at West Point. Sandhurst was started in 1967 when RMAS presented West Point with a British Officer's sword to use as the prize for a competition to promote military excellence.It wasn't until 1975 that the competition began to resemble its current form with teams taking part in different challenges to test their military skills. Sandhurst was only an internal West Point competition until 1992 when ROTC teams began competing. Then, in 1993, RMAS began taking part annually. The Royal Military College of Canada joined in 1997 and since 2002 the competition has featured a diverse group of international teams as well as the Naval, Coast Guard and Air Force academies and ROTC teams from throughout the country.2. Winning it for the QueenWest Point dominated Sandhurst for the first three decades winning every single year from 1967 through 1992. That streak was broken in 1993, the first year a non-West Point team competed, when the British team came from across the pond to finally win a military battle along the Hudson River.For the next 16 years the competition was dominated by members of The Commonwealth capturing the title in the name of Queen Elizabeth II as RMAS won from 1993 to 2004 and the Royal Military College of Canada won from 2005-07.RMAS and RMC-Canada went back and forth for a couple years before the plucky upstarts from West Point company B-3 finally broke through in 2011 breaking the queen's reign over the competition.
Not to be outdone, the Royal Military College of Australia - Duntroon claimed the title in 2012 bringing honor back to the crown. The Commonwealth would hold the title through 2016 with RMAS and RMC-Canada winning the titles.West Point finally won again in 2017, but its hold on the title was short lived when tragedy befell the competition in 2018 and in a twist that none expected, the U.S. Air Force Academy fought their way to victory in a competition that tests ground combat skills.Thankfully, the natural pecking order was restored in 2019 as West Point claimed the top two spots in the competition. USMA-Black took home the saber as the top team with West Point's Company D-2 nipping at their heals in second. Air Force dropped to a distant ninth place and the U.S. Naval Academy team couldn't stop splashing around and finished in 24th.3. An international flairWest Point reclaimed the title in 2019, but the defending champions will face a global challenge if they hope to keep the title along the banks of the Hudson River once again.Fourteen international teams from 12 countries are competing in Sandhurst this year with two teams from RMAS taking part. Eleven of the countries are repeat competitors from last year, but they will face new competition this year as Latvia and Poland return to the competition after a hiatus.4. Double the troubleAn ROTC team has never won the title, but the University of North Georgia has its sights set on becoming the first. The Nighthawks have won the Sandhurst ROTC Cup back-to-back years as the top ROTC team in the competition. In 2018 they finished fourth overall and last year they finished third behind two West Point teams.This year, UNG has a secret weapon in their quest to capture the title: as second team. ROTC teams qualify for Sandhurst by winning regional Ranger Challenges hosted by Army Cadet Command. The top two teams from each competition qualify for Sandhurst. UNG's Black and Gold teams swept the Spartan Ranger Challenge in October at Fort Knox, Kentucky to punch two tickets to Sandhurst this season. They will be joined by ROTC teams from 13 other universities in this year's Sandhurst Competition.5. A race to the…. starting line?Before last year's Sandhurst, the event organizers debuted a new event to test the teams. At the start of competition week, the teams competed in an order of march relay race with three members of each team racing along a nearly five-mile course. Teams then drafted their start time in the competition based on their finish time in the relay.The order of merit relay will return this year, with a few added elements from the Sandhurst overlords. Teams will then spend the rest of the week training on possible elements, attending the annual Sandhurst conference and familiarizing themselves with the terrain they must traverse during the competition.6. Girl powerWest Point first admitted women to the academy in 1976 and since 1986 each team competing in Sandhurst has been required to be co-gender with at least one female on the team. The rule applies to West Point and visiting teams.The rule even applied to teams from the National Military Academy of Afghanistan when they competed in years past. Because there are no women in the NMAA, a female West Point cadet would compete on the Afghan team each year.7. A plaque that is actually a swordAfter fighting through two days of obstacles and lugging their rucks, which must weigh a minimum of 35 lbs., for approximately 30 miles, one team will be crowned the Sandhurst champion. The winner is chosen based on performance at each of the obstacles as well as the speed with which they complete them.The champion will be awarded the Reginald E. Johnson Memorial Plaque, named for a Sandhurst competitor who died during the land navigation phase in 1980. Although it is called a plaque, the award follows the initial tradition of the competition and is a mounted cadet saber. The saber has been used as the award since 1999.There are separate awards for the top ROTC team, top international team and top squad leader.For all the details about this year's Sandhurst, including live results once it starts visit www.westpoint.edu/military/department-of-military-instruction/sandhurst.
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