Fighting Saints Battalion team earns April trip to West Point

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November 13, 2019

Final exams at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University don’t start until May 6-9.

But members of the Fighting Saints ROTC Battalion – including students from CSB, SJU and St. Cloud State University – will have a final exam of a different sort come April 17-18.

The battalion’s nine-person team won the Third Brigade Ranger Challenge Nov. 1-3 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to qualify for the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

ROTC Team standing together

The Fighting Saints ROTC Battalion’s Nine-Person Ranger Challenge Team was pictured after winning the Task Force Ranger Challenge in October in Rapid City, South Dakota. Team members were (from left) David Palmquist, Alexander Wiczek, Isaiah Faue, Ethan Erickson, Dean Amundson (behind Erickson), team captain Mark Lorenz, Tucker Rockis, Ryan Pinewski, Maureen Burns and Zachary Oestreich. Burns is a CSB student and Oestreich is a St. Cloud State students; the rest are SJU students.

Sandhurst is the world’s premier international academy military skills competition that inspires excellence through rigorous physical and mental challenges that reflect the tempo, uncertainty and tasks of combat operations.

The two-day competition will demonstrate proficiency in four critical military basics: shoot, move, communicate and tactical casualty care. A total of 48 teams will compete, including 16 ROTC teams, 14 international teams and teams from all four U.S. service academies.

Although there are several upcoming competitions before Sandhurst, Lt. Col. Steve Beard, professor of military science at CSB and SJU and commander of the Fighting Saints Battalion, said the team is “really going to be focused on going out to Sandhurst.

“It’s a fantastic event,” Beard said. “When we go to West Point and this competition, it’s fully resourced. The entire post is turned over to support this, and we’ll have access to all the latest weapons, equipment and world-class support. It will be pretty amazing.”

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, for sure,” said Cadet Mark Lorenz, an SJU senior from Foley, Minnesota, who is the captain of the nine-person team

For the cadet team members, it completes a training session that began in August with two-a-day training sessions. The training began with over 30 cadets vying for spots on both the nine- and five-person teams.

“The competition is very physical, but it’s also very skills-orientated,” Lorenz said. “You kind of have to whittle it down to who has the certain skills and qualities that would most benefit the team.”

Once the team is selected, “that makes it easier to fine-tune. It was a tough process to choose anybody,” Lorenz said.

The Third Brigade Ranger Challenge in early November came down to a two-way battle between the Fighting Saints Battalion and Marquette University. The Fighting Saints edged Marquette in the nine-person competition, but Marquette topped the local battalion for the five-person title.

 “The experience of last year definitely played into our ability to go back and be the most competitive this year,” Beard said. “We understood the terrain and some of the geography of Fort Leonard Wood, realizing we would have to train on hills. It definitely helped us this year.”

“Everybody killed it,” Lorenz said of the competition. “It made my job really easy. You can just go in there and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing today,’ and they all took the charge and competed to win.”