ROTC talks wins, losses, prepares for competitions

ROTC talks wins, losses, prepares for competitions

Combining values of the Capstone Creed and the U.S. Army, members of The University of Alabama Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) are consistently striving for excellence. They have achieved high scores in the classroom, and now they look to do the same at their competitions. 

Fresh off finishing 2nd place in the State Ranger Challenge Competition last month, the Army ROTC is getting ready to compete in 6th Brigade Ranger Challenge in January. 

Ten schools competed in the State Ranger challenge, which was comprised of eight different tests including a physical test, written test, weapon assembly, zodiac boat training, tactical combat, casualty care, chemical tasks, rope bridges and patrolling lanes. The University of Alabama finished first in four of eight categories: written, physical fitness – averaging ten points higher than any other school in the competition – weapon assembly, and total ruck-march time. 

Ben Klein, a senior majoring in criminal justice, is the cadet battalion commander for Army ROTC. As the cadet in charge, Klein fully supports the eleven cadets that participated in the Ranger Challenge. 

“I think the team is doing very well,” Klein said. “They train Monday through Friday from 5:45 to 7 a.m. … The biggest part is physical training.”

The most important thing to Klein is not only for all the cadets in ROTC to succeed, but for those who do not know much about the program to learn.

“ROTC is about excellence in the program and academics,” Klein said. “The cadets have an average of a 3.65 GPA, and they’ve already run six or seven miles before class even starts.”

While the Ranger Challenge did well in the state competition, they lost first place to Auburn University at Montgomery. The rope bridge challenge for Alabama proved too tough, with Auburn Montgomery’s placing first with the best time. David Edwards, a senior majoring in Aerospace Engineering and team co-captain, knows first-hand how difficult the loss was for the team. This is Edwards’s first semester as co-captain of Ranger Challenge, and there is definitely pressure to set the example after last year’s team placed first. 

“The biggest challenge was trying to match what the team did last year and living up to that,” Edwards said. “The Army is very performance-based. You’re expected to excel.”

With an older brother in the army, Edwards always knew he wanted to go into the military. He came to college by the recommendation of his parents and it has benefited him by his success in Army ROTC. Though the loss at state was tough, Edwards said he was proud that no one on the team got frustrated. 

In preparation for the 6th Brigade Challenge, Edwards believes the team is preparing well.

“We rehearse rope bridge more than anything else,” Edwards said. “I think we all are striving to do better. You can’t always prepare together, so we also train separately on our own time.”

Someone who has trained well is team member Bailey Connor, a junior studying exercise and sports science. Connor enlisted in the National Guard before contracting at the University. She grew up with two brothers and lived primarily with her father. She has always loved being with the guys and getting down and dirty outside. She fell in love with the campus and knew that’s where she wanted to be. 

Army ROTC gives Connor the ability to set herself apart from her future goal of being a physician’s assistant and giving back to the community. Remembering the state challenge, Connor was optimistic.

“We worked well together and the team chemistry was there,” Connor said. “We were frustrated [about the rope bridge challenge loss], and I think that brings us closer to victory for the Brigade.”

Being one of two girls on Ranger Challenge, Connor breaks the stereotypes whenever she can. Pushing herself to reach the same standards as the males keeps her motivated. 

“Anytime I can, I do,” Connor said. “As far as respect, there is a huge mutual respect. We all take care of each other.”

When training, the two girls will start their daily run by setting the group pace. As they all run, two members will start to sprint as the others catch up, and they will rotate who leads the rest. Running like this pushes each team member to their limit while encouraging morale. Connor said her team is like a football team. 

“There are the players, but there are also those who support them,” Connor said. “You can’t have players without others to support them.”

The team is excited and ready to prove themselves at the 6th Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition. With last year’s success as their motivation, Ranger Challenge eagerly anticipates rising above Auburn Montgomery and all others. Thirty seven schools in the southeast will compete this January to see who is the fastest, the smartest, and the best as a team.

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