2013 Ranger Challenge Competition

 Fort McCoy, WI - Training for this year's Ranger Challenge competition commenced on 12 August 2013.  There was one goal in mind this year, and that was to finally take first place in the Task Force Ripley competition.  For several Cadets, this would be their last chance at glory and for many others, it was their chance to be part of something special and carry it forward into next year. 

Our Black Team, or varsity team, graduated a single senior last year and gained three more.  It was comprised of 5 seniors, Cadets Oestreich (Team Captain), Illies, Huseth, Marschall, and Pittman, and 4 juniors, Cadets Francour, Witt, Brakner, and Gresback.  We were an incredibly experienced team and refused to be taken lightly by our number one rival, University of North Dakota (UND).  The competition was supposed to take place at Camp Ripley, MN but due to numerous factors, that was unable to happen.  As a replacement event, each university in the Task Force, which included CSB/SJU/SCSU, UND, NDSU, UoM Twin Cities, UoM Mankato, USD, SDSU, and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, had to conduct three mandatory events on their respective campuses.  These events included the Army Physical Fitness Test, a written knowledge exam, and a 10K forced march.  As a Battalion, we had 40 Cadets participating in our Ranger Challenge training.  We had three 9-person teams, one 5-person all female team, and one 5-person junior varsity team compete.  The results of the competition ended with our Black Team taking first place in all three events and winning the Task Force Competition for the first time since 2003.  We were now given the opportunity to attend and compete at the next level in the Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition for the second year in a row at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

We had 2 weeks of rigorous training in order to prepare ourselves for the next competition and were extremely excited to get the opportunity to represent the Task Force Ripley at a bigger stage.  Upon entering the competition, we viewed ourselves as the underdogs.  However, many other teams viewed us as the team to beat.  Our confidence was soaring as a team and we went out there and 'did our thing'.  The event kicked off Friday, 1 November 2013 with the first event being a marksmanship challenge.  The following day was when the rubber meets the road.  First call was at 4:00am and the first event was an unknown-distance forced march.  Upon completion of that event, we moved in to the round robin portion of the event.  This consisted of 6 stations, each with its own event.  Between each station was a land navigation challenge that was compiled after all 6 stations were completed.  The 6 events included a mystery challenge, a knowledge exam, a one-rope bridge lane, a hand grenade assault course, a medical lane, and a patrol lane.  Once all 6 stations were completed we moved into the night land navigation event where each team spilt up into four or fewer smaller teams to comb the woods for known points with nothing but a red lens to light our paths.  First call on Sunday morning was at 4:30am and the first event of that morning was the Army Physical Fitness Test and was immediately followed by an obstacle course which was the last event of the competition.

Once all the scores were compiled our Black Team was again crowned champions.  We took first place in 4 events, which included the 10K forced march, one rope bridge lane, medical lane, and day land navigation.  We also took second in 4 other events, patrol lane, APFT, knowledge exam, and the marksmanship challenge, and third in night land navigation, obstacle course, and the hand grenade assault course.  It was an incredible feeling winning the Brigade Level competition.  It was the first time St. John's University has won this event in 20 years, and now we will be heading to West Point, NY to compete in the Sandhurst Ranger Challenge Competition. Sandhurst is the overall pinnacle competition for Ranger Challenge.  It consists of 36 teams from West Point, 8 ROTC teams, one team from the Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, and 10 other countries, some of which are Great Britain, China, Brazil, and Afghanistan.  No ROTC team has ever won this competition, and our goal as a team is at least a top ten finish.  We are excited for this opportunity to go and represent our Brigade on the biggest stage.