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Gonzaga ROTC win challenge at JBLM

Team members of the Claremont McKenna ROTC compete in the 8th Brigade Ranger Challenge at the obstacle course on Lewis North Jan 27. (JBLM PAO photo)

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Three Reserve Officers’ Training Corps teams battled each other in a test of physical and mental strength during the 8th Brigade Ranger Challenge on Lewis North in late January.

When the dust settled, the team from Gonzaga University stood alone and will be representing the 8th Brigade at the 2017 Sandhurst Competition at the U.S. Military Academy, at West Point, N.Y. in the spring.

“I’m thrilled for the team and so proud of how they performed,” said Alan Westfield, a senior military science instructor at Gonzaga and the team’s coach. “There has been a lot of excitement around the campus from faculty and students from how this team performed. They competed tough against two great teams and were able to pull out a gritty win. It was truly in the spirit of the Ranger Challenge.”

As a reward for their victory, the Gonzaga team will compete in a global tournament at West Point — the Sandhurst Competition. The competition is a nearly 50-year-old tradition that takes ROTC programs from 38 companies, along with teams from the around the globe, to compete in a gauntlet of physical and mental challenges in a battle for supremacy.

The other two teams came from Claremont McKenna College and the University of Washington. The original field winnowed down from 32 until only these three teams remained to compete for the chance of a lifetime.

“The Ranger Challenge is the premier event we use as a leadership development programs for our cadets,” said Maj. Ted Marlett with the 8th Brigade. “Sixty teams will be going to West Point to compete, and this event is how we will find the best team to represent the 8th Brigade. We had three task force competitions before this to narrow it down to these three teams.”

The challenge kicked off to the roar of helicopters, as the competitors were dropped off on Lewis North before racing to the obstacle course. From there, teams flew through a variety of beloved Joint Base Lewis-McChord training exercises, such the 45-degree wall, footbridge crossing and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense training.

It wasn’t all physical — the teams also participated in a commander’s challenge to prove their military knowledge. Teams marched from challenge to challenge with a full rucksack, a total of 19 miles on the first day and another three on the second.

Being able to make it this far into the competition was a great honor for each team, said Tim Culpepper, a professor of military science at Gonzaga who helped train the teams.

“These young men and women have been training really hard for the event, so I know that they will perform to their true potential,” he said. “The cadets know that this is very demanding and physical challenge. Winning this would be quite the accomplishment. Being able to go to Sandhurst and represent the 8th Brigade is one of the ultimate honors.”

Now, Gonzaga will have another few months to train before the competition in April. Cadets on the team will have the benefit of familiarity with the tournament, as they represented the 8th Brigade last year.

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