By Mike Strasser, West Point Public AffairsApril 26, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. (April 26, 2012) -- Australians certainly know how to celebrate a victory with enthusiasm.
After being named the top team at the 2012 Sandhurst Military Skills Competition April 21, the cadets from the Royal Military Academy at Duntroon hoisted the Reginald E. Johnson Memorial plaque up high and roared "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie; Oi, Oi, Oi."
The packed theatre at Eisenhower Hall graciously responded in kind and after two exhausting days of events the 46th iteration of the competition came to an end.
"It's amazing. The lads and our staff put a lot of work into getting us prepared for this event," the squad leader for the Royal Military Academy at Duntroon, Cadet David Hodge, said. "It's fantastic just to be able to come over and participate with all the other international teams."
In only their second year competing, the RMC at Duntroon took home the top prize.
"Last year our lads came over and we were able to capitalize this year on some of the shortfalls they experienced in order to improve today," he said. "We performed really well as a team together. The benefit we had is a really strong team of gents who knew their jobs, did their jobs and their execution was the results of what we earned today."
The awards ceremony started later than planned, and participants had plenty of time to compare notes and share moments from the two-day competition as they waited for the remaining teams to return from Camp Buckner.
Many said, without a doubt, this was the toughest, most challenging Sandhurst they've ever experienced. There were several modified and added events to catch even veteran competitors by surprise.
It might have been the grenade throw--one international competitor said he'd never thrown a grenade for such accuracy before.
Or it could have been the task which required teams to move a howitzer and all its ammunition by hand across a field. Training manuals don't cover how to effectively cut through a log more than inch thick, and teams who tried to push and muscle their way through struggled mightily during the competition.
The team from Canada's Royal Military College needed at least 45 minutes for the challenge, and teammates who already rowed the course around Lake Popolopen joined in the effort. Despite the setback, the Canadians still managed to earn a Sandhurst Patch--an award presented to the five highest-placing teams.
In the past, teams could opt to skip the land navigation course and save time although they'd incur a penalty. This year it was mandatory and scheduled during the first day of competition along with the marksmanship event.
"I think that's good because every team has to do it and it forces us to showcase those skills," Class of 2012 Cadet Kaitlin Merrick, Company B-1 squad leader, said before the competition.
Merrick, who will be attending medical school after graduation, has been on a Sandhurst team all four years at West Point.
She began her plebe year as an alternate, but kept coming back because of the camaraderie that develops within a team.
"It's a different mentality," she said. "People want to do it, so they're completely motivated and participate in everything. I get to do things at Sandhurst I probably never will get a chance to do again."
The U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School marked its first appearance at the competition since their relocation to West Point from Fort Monmouth, N.J. Col. Tyge Rugenstein, USMAPS commandant, said the school has fielded teams for several years and the Class of 2012 team was ready to represent.
"This is a challenging course and seems longer than what it's been in previous years, but the team is very motivated and looks forward to finishing strong," Rugenstein said.
Many of these prep school cadets will serve on future West Point teams, Rugenstein said, so they may actually have a five-year Sandhurst experience before graduating as commissioned officers.
Col. Glenn Goldman, Department of Military Instruction director, addressed the packed theatre at the end of the awards ceremony.
He said the competition achieved its objectives by highlighting leader development, military excellence and camaraderie.
"With a few minor tweaks and some adjustments, we'll do this again next year--only better," he concluded.