Training for the future: ROTC ranger challenge
By Alyssa Tilley
For most Northern Arizona University (NAU) students, a typical weekend is their time to relax and have fun with friends. However for nine ROTC students, their weekend consisted of physical and mental challenges to test their leadership and communication skills as a team. These students were a part of NAU’s Ranger Challenge team, a two-day competition in which ROTC units across Arizona compete in.
During the weekend of Oct. 19-20, the Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) Fifth Brigade Army ROTC team placed third out of 22 teams in this year’s Ranger Challenge. This year, the Ranger Challenge was held in Salt Lake City, Utah at Camp Williams. Teams from across the state traveled to Camp Williams to compete in the event’s ten challenges.
The ten different events included a ten kilometer march, land navigation, first aid, weapons, casualty evacuation, leadership reaction course, river crossing, equipment check and commander’s challenge. Each event is scored based on time and accuracy. Failure to follow instructions or perform a task correctly results in a time penalty, which is detrimental because the team with the fastest time wins the event. This year, NAU took victory in the weapons and first aid events.
The team, which consists of eight males, one female and two alternates, set out for Camp Williams on Oct. 18.
Luserito Gaytan, a senior secondary education math major, was the sole female on NAU’s team. The majority of the competitors were male, so Gaytan says her “main job as a woman is to stay with them.”
The 10-K march is one of Gaytan’s favorite parts of the competition.
“We are all so close to each other and all had to push each other, ” Gaytan explains.
During the 10K, the competitors pace themselves as they go from a slow jog to a fast walk. However, because Gaytan’s strides are much smaller than many of the men’s strides, she was tied to a rope and connected to the team in order for her to keep up. Gaytan explains this sort of teamwork is essential to the competition.
Agreeing with her is sophomore political science major Garrett Dunlap, who articulates NAU’s team “worked like clockwork” during the competition. They were used to relying on each other and listening to their captain, and as a whole they were well-conditioned.
One of the Ranger Challenge requirements is have representatives from each year on every team. Biochemistry major Eric Budginas was one of the two freshman.
Budginas says it was “an exhilarating feeling” to compete in the Ranger Challenge.
As a freshman, he is discovering the ROTC program, and especially the Ranger Challenge team, helps students mature as team members and leaders. To be on the team, one must have “complete trust and complete allegiance to yourself, your teammates and your captain,” Budingas says.
The captain, Braun Stapley, a senior political science major, participated in the challenge for the third time. Being captain for the first time this year meant he was the “brains behind it.” As a captain, he had to think as a leader and develop a plan quickly during each event. Stapley believes participating in the Ranger Challenge over the past three years has helped him develop as a leader and has allowed him to learn and make mistakes.
“Next year it’s going to be for real,” he says. After graduating from the NAU ROTC program, Stapley will enter the United States Army, ranked as a Second Lieutenant.
Although NAU was striving for first place in the challenge, they were not disappointed when they came out at third.
“The amount of effort and the amount of support, and the drive the team had especially at the freshmen level, was very impressive,” Stapely says.
Being a part of the ROTC program can help students develop leadership, perseverance and communication skills, and NAU’s Ranger Challenge team this year showed just that. Placing in the top three was a source of pride for the students, the ROTC program and NAU.