TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama’s Army ROTC program needs one more win to make it to “the ship.”
Eleven UA cadets have trained five days a week since the beginning of the fall semester to improve fitness times, endurance, land navigation skills and teamwork to steer the program toward its first Ranger Challenge national competition.
UA won the state Ranger Challenge in November and will compete for the Brigade championship –- a regional competition among the winners of six Southeastern states and Puerto Rico –- on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Florida.
“Mentally and from a team aspect,we’re peaking,” said Cadet Brandon Sinnott, a senior operations management major and commander of UA’s Ranger Challenge team. “We saw that teamwork and mental toughness building in our last competition. It was a hard competition, and we had to rely on each other. But there was no bickering –- we held each other accountable and competed, which is our strength.”
UA’s Senior ROTC Ranger Challenge team dominated the state competition in November, beating 10 other university ROTC programs in Army-related events and winning three individual events. If UA wins the Brigade championship, the cadets will vie in the Ranger Challenge Sandhurst Competition, the national championship at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A team representing a university from each of the eight brigades will compete against international teams and those from West Point. Florida State has won the Brigade challenge seven times since 2001.
The Brigade Challenge events and format will differ from the state competition, which was spread over two days and didn’t include weapons assembly and marksmanship. The goal of the Brigade competition is to tailor the events closer to what the cadets will experience should they make it to West Point.
Cadets will arrive at Camp Blanding on Friday night and will begin the competition at 6 a.m. The cadets will move nearly 20 miles while wearing 40 pounds of gear by the end of the competition at 1 a.m. The team with the most points will earn a spot at West Point.
Cadets will compete in the following events:
— Fitness test: pushups, sit-ups and two-mile run.
— Grenade assault course.
— Basic rifle marksmanship.
— Battlefield casualty care.
— Timed weapons assembly.
— One-rope bridge.
— Land navigation: cadets must locate as many of the 88 points on the course as possible in three hours.
— A 6.2-mile “ruck” march.
“If you can’t do the basics right, you can’t do the mission right,” said Conner Salisbury, UA Army ROTC cadet and sophomore communications major. “If you can’t do a small task, like assemble a weapon, ruck march, etc., there’s no way in combat you’ll be successful doing tasks that are more difficult and dangerous,with lives on the line. Ranger Challenge builds a unit, and we have to work together. And the events change from state competition to Brigade, which is good practice because missions change.”
Team members are selected after a rigorous tryout period in which their fitness and their ability to think quickly and make accurate decisions are tested. The following UA cadets will compete this weekend: David Receniello, Macomb, Michigan; Dylan Deflorio, Sudbury, Massachusetts; Cody Rosenberg, Clarksville, Tennessee; Terry Hancock, Kissimmee, Florida; Dalton Phillips, Hazel Green, Alabama; Jordan Pieczynski, Pickerington, Ohio; Brandon Sinnott, Wildwood, Missouri; Mary Sandlin, Scottsboro, Alabama; Bailey Connor, Sumter, South Carolina; Garrett Preston, Jacksonville, Alabama; and Conner Salisbury, Lorton, Virginia.
The competition is open to spectators. Anyone interested in watching the competition and gaining access to Camp Blanding must have a driver’s license, car registration and proof of insurance.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.