It’s 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Four Olivet ROTC cadets take their rifles and 35 pounds of equipment and begin a 9.2 mile run. This was the beginning of the 22nd annual ROTC Buddy Ranger Competition.
The ROTC Buddy Ranger Competition was held at Kansas University on April 9. The all day race encouraged pairs of cadets from all over the U.S. to work together and overcome a 9.2 mile ruck march, a series of skill challenges such as evaluating a casualty, knot tying, and dummy-grenade throwing, and a 5K run to finish the day.
Rolling Thunder Battalion, to which Olivet cadets belong, finished first overall in the national competition. Rolling Thunder is based at Wheaton college and includes ROTC programs from other Christian schools like Lewis and Elmhurst. The battalion was represented by nine teams, of which two came from Olivet.
Freshmen Konnor Anderson and Joel Martin, and junior Adam Timmer and senior Luke Strasser made up the two Olivet teams. These cadets had to qualify before the competition by completing a 9.2 mile ruck march within 2 hours and 15 minutes. Upon qualifying, the cadets repeated this feat at KU.“The hardest part was getting up,” said Timmer with a laugh.
After completing the 9.2 mile ruck march, Teams had a 2 hour cap to finish all 16 skills, plus any extra time from the ruck march. For example, Anderson and Martin finished the march 17 minutes early and so had 2 hours and 17 minutes to complete the skills portion. Unfortunately, it was during this phase that the freshman team was eliminated from the competition. Anderson and Martin had finished 15 out of the 16 skills challenges before they were cut from the race. ”It was difficult to find where all the stations were located,” said Anderson, “We spent a lot of time searching.”
Despite being eliminated, Anderson was glad he had the opportunity to participate.“It definitely taught me a lot,” said Anderson, “It brought me closer to our battalion.”
Olivet’s second team, Timmer and Strasser, completed the 16 skills test and trudged through the final leg of the race: The 5K.
After finishing the race, all the cadets gathered for an awards ceremony. Although exact placements have not been released yet, Timmer and Strasser feel confident that they finished within the top twenty-five places. They, along with every other team who completed the arduous challenge, received large coins commemorating the event. Strasser completed a goal of being a part of the Buddy Ranger Challenge all 4 years. His freshman year marked the first time Olivet attended the competition, and he helped establish the Olivet tradition of playing handball in the hotel parking lot the night before the competition. The tradition serves as a way to blow off steam and relax before the race, and participants claim that the victors of the annual handball game are the real winners of the Buddy Ranger Challenge.
According to Strasser, this year had the smallest amount of Olivet participants yet. This is due to the new qualifying round that takes place before the competition. In years past, Olivet would bring at least 4 or 5 teams down. Strasser, a religious studies major here at Olivet, is glad he participated all 4 years.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Strasser, “But it was satisfying crossing the finish line for the last time.”
—Brandon Grossi, staff writer