The 5-man South Dakota State Army ROTC team brought home the first-place trophy last weekend from the regional Army ROTC Ranger Challenge Competition at Camp Ripley, Minnesota.
The nine-person team also placed sixth in the competition which made for the best collective performance SDSU Army ROTC has had in 10 years.
“It makes me proud that they can achieve so much in the classroom, so much in this Ranger Challenge Competition and all while leading such busy lives. It’s real easy to be proud of them,” said Lieutenant Colonel Corey Norris.
The Army ROTC Ranger Challenge Competition is considered the “varsity sport” of Army ROTC, Norris said.
It is a 24-hour competition where teams compete in 10 events. Part of the strategic aspect of this challenge is the team must choose in which order to complete the events, and some events can only be completed by one team at a time.
“Our outlook going into this competition is to do the best that we can,” said Erin Holdsclaw, team captain. “It’s all we can ask of ourselves and of our program. It’s kind of overwhelming because no one has been to this level that we know of, so we’re kind of going in blind but we’re definitely excited to have the opportunity to be a part of it.”
This is Holdsclaw’s second year on the team. They were not able to compete last year due to injuries.
The cadets who competed on the five-man team included Holdsclaw, Andre Jorgensen, Emma Thordson, Morgan Rohlfs and Laura Selman.
All the cadets will become second lieutenants once they graduate.
To become a member of the team, cadets must be chosen by the captain after completing rigorous workouts and assessments.
“As a freshman, I saw all the older cadets doing it and it looked so cool,” Rohlfs said. “I got to do so many different things than what we do on a normal daily basis so I thought, ‘Why not try for it?’”
The team members trained together to compete since August. This included intense physical training five days a week beginning at 5:45 a.m.
These training sessions often include five to seven mile runs, six to eight mile ruck marches with 35-pound backpacks on, or other various cross-fit-like activities.
“Their work ethic, resilience — I mean they push through blistered feet, sore muscles, rain — it builds resilience,” Norris said. “The ability to be exposed to a new task and perfect it … as future nurses and officers they understand how soldiers train and compete which will help them later on.”
The next and final competition will be Nov. 2 in Des Moines, Iowa at the 3rd Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition at Camp Dodge.