FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Army ROTC cadets from Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin converged on Fort Leonard Wood Friday and Saturday to participate in the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s 3rd Brigade ROTC Ranger Challenge.
After two full days and 14 military skills competition events — including tasks such as completing an obstacle course, rendering first aid and a weapons skills assessment — cadets from Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were the winners of both the five- and nine-person team divisions. Runner-up in both divisions was the University of Iowa, from Iowa City, Iowa. The first- and second-place nine-person teams will go on to represent their brigade at the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in the spring.
Considered the “varsity sport” of ROTC, Ranger Challenge includes events designed to test each team’s mental and physical endurance.
At the awards ceremony Saturday evening, Col. Adam Lewis, 3rd Brigade Army ROTC commander, said this was one of the most difficult Ranger Challenge events that has been put together “in at least several years, and you guys answered the call.”
“That says a lot about you and a lot about the cadre and staff at your programs,” he said. “I saw an immense amount of teamwork out there; I saw a lot of grit, resilience, adaptivity — exactly what we expect and want to see in future leaders. You should be proud.”
Lewis also thanked the support provided from the Soldiers and civilians of Fort Leonard Wood.
“We definitely could not pull off the brigade Ranger Challenge without our great partners here at Fort Leonard Wood,” he said. “We do a number of ROTC program (field training exercises) and range days here. We look forward to growing the relationship and keeping it going.”
In addition to presenting trophies to the top overall teams, Lewis and the brigade’s Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Guerrero presented guidon streamers to the winning teams of each event:
- Marquette University won the nine-person team SALUTE report and call for fire, communications, one-rope bridge construction, weapons assembly and Zodiac boat challenges. They also won the five-person team functional fitness, hand grenade assault course, land navigation, medical, communications, one-rope bridge construction and weapons assembly challenges.
- The University of Iowa won the nine-person team functional fitness, marksmanship, obstacle course, forced march and medical challenges. They also won the five-person SALUTE report and call-for-fire challenge.
- Wheaton College, from Wheaton, Illinois, won the nine-person team hand grenade assault course challenge.
- Missouri State University, from Springfield, Missouri, won the nine-person team land navigation challenge.
- The University of Missouri, from Columbia, Missouri, won the five-person team marksmanship, obstacle course and forced march challenges.
Cadet Jacqueline Espinoza is one of two freshmen on Marquette’s winning nine-person team. She credited her fellow teammates — “great leaders,” she called them — with the achievement.
“I’m extremely grateful to be here,” said the Milwaukee native. “It’s my first year being with all these amazing people, and I look forward to competing at Sandhurst with them.”
While they didn’t win the event, Cadet Jonnathan Rodriguez, one of three seniors on the University of Iowa’s nine-person team, said they did what they set out to achieve.
“Our goal was to make it to the next level, and getting second place here, we achieved that,” he said. “So, we feel very accomplished and I’m very proud of our team.”
Rodriguez, from Barrington, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, said the whole team is excited to experience the next level of competition at West Point.
“There are teams from all over the world competing, and we have to step up our performance and focus on getting better each and every day,” he said.
Helping ensure the safety of the cadets throughout the competition were Soldiers from several Fort Leonard Wood units, including the 3rd Chemical Brigade and 50th Multi-Role Bridge Company.
It’s crucial for Soldiers to support events like this, said Sgt. 1st Class Deangelo Stevenson, a platoon sergeant with 50th MRBC — the unit provided Zodiac boats and Soldiers who instructed the cadets on the safe use of the boats.
“These are the Army’s future leaders,” he said. “They get to see us and what we do, and for some of these cadets, we’re going to be their noncommissioned officers, their Soldiers.”
Also known as the Black Hawk Brigade, the 3rd ROTC Bde. is one of eight ROTC brigades across the country. It is headquartered at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois, and oversees ROTC programs in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Army ROTC produces approximately 70 percent of the officers entering the Army each year and is available through nearly 1,000 college campuses nationwide. At the core of their military science curriculum, they teach leadership and discipline skills, management techniques, cultural awareness and problem solving.
To view more photos from throughout the competition here, visit the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page.
To learn more about Army ROTC opportunities, visit U.S. Army Cadet Command’s website.