Wildcat cadets compete at Ft. McCoy


The NMU Military Science department sent two teams to the annual Ranger Challenge competition this past weekend at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

The event pits collegiate ROTC departments against each other in a test of various military skills, including physical fitness, weapons assembly, and the ability to find points on a map with only a compass, map and protractor.

“It’s the varsity athletic program of the ROTC,” said female team captain Hannah Cerney.

The Wildcat battalion sent a nine-member male team and a five-person female squad. The men finished third out of nine teams, and the women finished fourth out of five schools. Among the colleges that participated in the challenge were Marquette University, UW- Madison and Michigan Tech.
Last fall, NMU brought two five person teams to the competition, one male and one coed squad and finished eighth and 12th out of 15 schools respectively.

The ROTC program started rigorous training for this year’s event at the beginning of the semester.

“The Rangers are the elite force of the army,” said men’s captain Ben Crockett, “The Ranger Challenge really tries to reflect that.”

Participants trained five days a week in physical fitness and various technical skills and also took a trip to Fort McCoy to get a better understanding of the physical and mental requirements the Ranger Challenge would present.

The extensive preparation was necessary because several members of both NMU teams had never competed in the Ranger Challenge before. Only three of the 14 competitors had previous experience in the event.

“We basically tried to make the training as much like the competition as possible,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Wright. “No one really knew what to expect,” added Wright.

NMU’s inexperience proved to be a factor early on.

Both teams were disqualified and received zero points for the first event, the Night Navigation Course, after a miscommunication led to the teams believing that they had 30 minutes more than the rules allowed.

“We started with one arm tied behind our back and everyone could have given up at that point,” said Crockett.

The men’s team rebounded on day two with a strong showing in the Day Navigation Course. The men’s squad moved from last into a tie for second overall with one of Marquette’s squads. They didn’t place lower than second in any event.

The NMU women’s squad saw improvement as well, placing first in the assembling and disassembling an M-16 rifle event. Cerney said that they talked amongst themselves beforehand to better their time.

“We made sure we had the technique down and tried to speed it up,” said Cerney.

She believes the female team had a different ultimate objective than the male team throughout the competition.

“We were more about staying together as a team and having fun,” she said.

Although the NMU Ranger Challenge teams were competitive, Wright acknowledges that some rival schools have an advantage due to a larger enrollment in their ROTC programs. Marquette, who took first and second in the nine-man group this year, has 150 members in their university program, while Northern currently has 40 cadets.

“The bigger the pool you have, the more stellar athletes you have,” he said. Despite this, he was still pleased with how NMU performed. “Even though they have the pick of the litter, we still proved to be competitors.”

NMU’s men’s squad hopes that the experience they gained this year will help them contend for first place next fall.

“I know a lot of the guys are more fired up than ever to come back next year and win,” said Crockett.

Although all teams want to win The Ranger Challenge, Wright insists the event is more than just a competition for its participants.
“It builds a bond that can only be compared to combat,” he said. “It’s the closest thing they can get to battle before they get into the army.”

The next event the ROTC is scheduled to participate in is the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge, which is an individual competition that tests track and field, swimming and firearm proficiency.