“One of the goals is just to get to the next competition,” sophomore Weston Callow said. Callow is a member of Olivet’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. He and his teammates recently competed in the 2016 Ranger Challenge for the Northern and Central Illinois ROTC programs.
Olivet’s ROTC program is a member of the Wheaton College Rolling Thunder Battalion. So for competitions such as the Ranger Challenge, Olivet cadets compete alongside other ROTC students from universities in the Rolling Thunder Battalion. There are two nine-person coed teams in this program, Alpha and Bravo, a five-man team and a five-woman team. Olivet cadets make up for 15 of the 28-team members.
The Rolling Thunder teams performed well this year, with the Alpha team placing first in all of the events but two. They took first place overall for the nine-person teams. The five-woman team took first place as well winning all but two of the events same as the Alpha team, and they also took first place overall. Over the past 26 years, both the nine-person and five-female have taken first place 21 times and has won the last 17 years in a row. In addition, the five-man team took second place overall.
The Ranger challenge is an annual national competition between ROTC programs. Teams compete against each other on a task force level, then the brigade level, and ultimately the national level. The task force competition for Illinois schools took place from Oct. 14 to Oct. 16 at Marseilles Training Center in Illinois. Competing universities were Illinois State University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University at Chicago, and University of Illinois.
The competition involved activities such as treating wounds with first aid equipment, responding to hand grenade assault, testing physical fitness, disassembling and re-assembling weapons, and practicing marksmanship. In addition, there are some specific team challenges such as constructing a bridge over a creek using a 150-foot or 100-foot rope, navigating a vicinity of 8-10 square kilometers to find the location of their events, and marching 10 kilometers through difficult terrain while carrying their ruck sacks and combat gear.
“That was a considerable gap between first place and second place for the final score in both the nine-person Alpha team and the five-female team,” said Captain Hoffman, U.S. Army’s Cadet Command for Olivet. “Part of it comes down to training management and maintaining the discipline to come to practice and put the extra effort in. Our cadets start training for the ranger challenge in August.”
The next step in the Ranger challenge will be to compete at the Brigade level, which is made up of about eight states. This competition will take place Nov. 4 to Nov. 6 at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
Although the Rolling Thunder has not won at the Brigade level yet, they have placed second place for three years in a row, including losing in a tie breaker to Marquette University’s ROTC program last year. Should the Rolling Thunder win at the Brigade level, they would move on to compete at the national level at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
“At this point, we have been ramping up our intensity and getting over a lot of injuries going into the task force competition,” said senior Adam Timmer, co-captain of the Rolling Thunder’s Alpha team. “It is what it is. These competitions become you trying to figure out how long you can keep pushing yourself. It’s constantly being in that mindset of knowing where you need to be.”
Callow is another member of the Alpha team. “Other goals are to stay healthy and keep our bodies ready to go, keep our minds right, stick to our tasks and skills and just get the work done. One of my personal goals is to just not be the guy who screws up,” he said.
— Sam Nichols, Staff Writer