Oct. 27, 2014

Nick Beadleston
nbeadles@uccs.edu

Along with morning runs and weekend drills on top of a full course load, a band of UCCS ROTC cadets recently took espirit de corps to another level.

The university’s team secured first place at the 2014 5th Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition, Oct. 17-18.

“The adversity the team overcame was outstanding,” said team captain Cadet Timothy Soderlund. “We took 11 individuals from all paths of life; dedicating ourselves to training for eight weeks and molded a team that outperformed 17 teams from across the region.”

The teams participated in 11 events, which ranged from knowledge of weapons and communication equipment to obstacle courses and other physical challenges.

According to a statement from the unit, the competition was designed to test “the Cadets’ ability to overcome both physical and mental exhaustion.” It also forced them to “adapt to their environment by effectively working as a team in order to overcome obstacles.”

The team started their 12 mile ruck march at 5:30 a.m. and powered through the events by midday, well ahead of most other teams. Their completion time combined with their scores at the individual events resulted in the overall team win.

This represented a major victory over Brigham Young University’s ROTC team, which often wins the competition.

“BYU had won their regional competitions in 32 of the 36 previous years, so we considered them as a measuring stick,” said Lt. Col. Mark Thompson, UCCS ROTC commander. “This win should serve as an inspiration for our future teams and give them the belief that they can win if they put in the effort.”

“BYU is the power house in the area, and we knocked them off their pedestal this year,” said fourth year Cadet John Gary.

Gary is in charge of the Ranger Challenge program, which involves planning training for the event and mentoring the team captain.

He indicated the win was doubly impressive, since the brigade did not hold a Ranger Challenge the previous year due to the government shutdown.

“It’s really just a lot of hard work and dedication,” Gary said of the team’s strategy for success. “We’ve been training almost every morning from five to seven.”

Thompson also attributed the team’s victory to the cadet’s comradery and motivation.

“I think the main reason for our success was that the cadets banded together early and committed themselves to the win,” he said. “They knew the areas they needed to improve in and did it.”

“I can neither confirm nor deny the misty eyes, but I was really proud of the team,” Thompson added humorously.

“It was a tough competition; my team definitely was the thing that got me through it,” said third year Cadet Kimberly Copley. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Copley said the march and running between events was the most challenging part of the day.

Next, the team will compete at the Camp Bullis Training reservation in Texas. If they pass that they will attend the international level competition next spring at The United States Military Academy at West Point.

Despite the odds, members of the team remain optimistic.

“The road ahead only brings more obstacles, challenges and opportunities for each and every team member to reach their highest aspirations,” Soderlund said.