JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – Cadets in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps embark on a very different journey than those who attend the nation’s military academies, but they share a common destination – a commission in the United States military.
When nearly 400 ROTC and academy Cadets arrived here Oct. 5 for this year’s 2nd Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition, they proved that the similarities in their training, toughness and military bearing far outweigh any differences.
“The stereotype of a cadet in the academies is that they are more military ready and better trained, but competing at this level you see that the ROTC has the same exact level of competency, tactical knowledge and physical toughness,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Jones, operations non-commissioned officer in charge of 2nd Brigade (ROTC), U.S. Army Cadet Command.
“They’re here to compete and show that we are, ‘One Team, One Fight,’” Jones added.
At this year’s Ranger Challenge, 42 ROTC teams from colleges and universities throughout the northeastern United States were joined by teams from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
“Having the Cadets from the U.S. Naval Academy as well as the U.S. Military Academy brings special value in that, as these Cadets graduate and go on to serve as commissioned officers in the various services, they’re going to serve in various capacities around the world,” said Col. Twala Mathis, commander of 2nd Brigade. “This is one of the first times the Cadets will have the opportunity to serve in a joint environment.”
The annual 2nd Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition tests Cadets’ warrior skills in events such as the Obstacle Course, Confidence Course, Rappel Tower, One-Rope Bridge, Tactical Combat Casualty Care Lane, Boat Movement Lane, Hand Grenade Assault Course, Weapons Lane and Commander’s Challenge.
Events are designed to test not only the Cadet’s technical and tactical knowledge, but also his or her physical, mental and emotional endurance and resilience.
“When you tie these all together, it’s the Total Soldier concept,” Jones said.
While ROTC and academy Cadets acknowledge that their military experiences are different, many recognize that once school is complete they will all serve together in the same armed forces, regardless of what school or academy they attended.
“We all go to the same place after (school) is done, so I think it’s good to get exposure to each other as early as we can,” said Cadet Matthew Gallagher, a senior at Providence College.
“I think it’s great that they’re out here,” said Cadet Hayley Neal, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, of her academy counterparts. “West Point is elite, but at the end of the day we’re all going to be serving together, so we may as well be competing together now.”
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to interact with other rising officers from a totally different commissioning source that the one we chose,” added Cadet Kathryn Leonard, a senior at the U.S. Military Academy.
For next year’s 2nd Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition, plans are in place to expand the joint-service aspect of the event by having additional teams compete from the nation’s other service academies.
“All of the Cadets have one thing in common, and that’s the defense of our freedom,” Mathis concluded.