ROTC represents Dixie at intercollegiate competition

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While “embracing the suck,” Dixie State University’s Army ROTC ruck marched for miles and camped in the Colorado cold during the Ranger Challenge competition.

Over fall break, a team of 11 DSU ROTC cadets traveled to Jacks Valley Training Area in Colorado to compete in the Ranger Challenge. The team won first place in the identifying improvised explosive device event. 

Patrick Kelly, a senior integrated studies major from St. George and team co-captain, said the challenge is a team event of physical and mental tasks.

“[The challenge is] designed to show and help cadets understand more about the Army,” Kelly said. 

The ruck march was first, and the events were completed second, Kelly said. A ruck march is with a weighted load carried on the back that participants go for a set distance in the least amount of time possible, Kelly said in a text.  

“The competition was held on Jacks Valley Training Area, which is just north of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado,” said Captain Justin Smith, assistant professor of military science, in an email. “The teams stayed on site Friday and Saturday night in military tents to give cadets the experience of operating in a field environment.”

The events included an obstacle course, which is the same one required for all Air Force Academy cadets. The challenge went for about 12 hours.

The first ruck march was intended to be eight miles with a 40-pound pack first, said team co-captain Breanna Opdahl, a junior communication major from Wahpeton, North Dakota. Overall, the team ended up ruck marching a total of about 18 miles, Opdahl said.

After the ruck march, the team completed the rest of the tasks with a lighter assault pack, such as a grenade course and the medical evaluation (medivac) course. The whole event was timed.

The team won the identifying improvised explosive device or IED Streamer Award and took fourth place out of 17 schools in basic rifle marksmanship, Kelly said. 

“We won because we were able to identify the IED quicker than any of the other teams,” Opdahl said. “ … [DSU] is so small, so to go out there and win the streamer was a pretty cool thing.”

DSU’s ROTC program is small compared to other schools, Kelly said. DSU has approximately 28 cadets while Brigham Young University has about 200.

The challenge is important to DSU’s Army ROTC because the experience enhances cadets ability to creatively overcome different obstacles that they are faced with, Smith said in an email.  

“The challenge is a fun way for cadets to learn about their own leadership strengths and weaknesses,” Smith said.  

Opdahl said that there were 17 schools that competed from Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. The other teams trained year-round, she said, but the DSU ROTC trained for about a month and half. The team didn’t have prior knowledge about the events.

“The first thing I noticed was that I was the only female captain, and that [was] really intimidating,” Opdahl said. “It was a long, grueling experience, but we just did something that the Army calls ‘embracing the suck,’ and we got through it … because we laughed and had fun with it.”

For the Ranger Challenge competition the different schools competed as separate teams, Opdahl said. 

“But at the end of the day we were all on the same team, which is the greatest force in America, the United States Army,” Opdahl said. “As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true, and that was really prevalent throughout the competition.”