News: Army ROTC 3rd Brigade cadets ready for Ranger Challenge to begin
Story by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey
By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey
CAMP DODGE, Iowa – Cadets from across the Midwest stood at parade rest while Col. Dean P. Shultis welcomed them to the first 3rd ROTC Brigade Gaspers-Cahill Ranger Challenge during an opening ceremony, March 16.
“Winning is a habit,” said Shultis, commander of the 3rd Reserve Officer Training Corps command, at Great Lakes, Ill. “It takes preparation, commitment, and self-sacrifice. Something all of you have already shown by making it here."
“You are already a step a head of your peers.”
The challenge was named for two of the brigade’s 11 alumni who died in combat. Both University of Nebraska graduates, 1st Lt. Kevin J. Gaspers and Capt. Joel E. Cahill, were killed in Iraq.
Claire Hansen, 22, a senior at Cahill’s alma mater, Creighton University, said she was inspired and motivated by Shultis’ speech.
“It’s really inspiring to hear someone like the colonel say that he’s proud of us and appreciates us coming here and that he thinks we’ve done a good job already,” said Hansen, who leaves for her Basic Officer Leadership Course in at the end of May. “And we haven’t even competed yet.”
All of the men being honored during this year’s 3rd ROTC Brigade, Ranger Challenge, attended one of the schools in the brigade’s 10-state region prior to going on active duty, Shultis added.
One of those was Capt. Edward D. Iwan, of Albion, Neb., who was killed November 2004 in Fallujah Iraq while assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
“It would have meant so much to him,” said Donna Iwan, regarding one of the challenges being named after her son. “Tradition was so important to him.”
Iwan left his family farm and enlisted as a mechanic in the U.S. Army in 1994, Donna said.
“He always said, ‘anywhere you are, you can work as a mechanic while you go to school,’” she said.
Iwan was practical like that, she added. It was a trait that would help him succeed in the ROTC at the University of Nebraska, the Nebraska Army National Guard, and as a second lieutenant deployed in Iraq.
He lived and breathed military training and planned to make a career of the military, Donna said.
“He was really dedicated to his men,” Donna said. “He was more grown up then I realized.”
He was promoted to captain posthumously.
Annually, more than 300 universities nationwide have teams compete in a series of challenging events. Locally, cadets compete against teams within the 3rd ROTC Brigade region, which includes North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Missouri, and Michigan’s upper peninsula.
Twelve teams from the upper Midwest will test their physical stamina and technical skills in the three-day event starting March 16, at Camp Dodge, Iowa. Five of the teams won their Task Force Challenges, two are “wild cards” – the top two-second place winners, and five are all-female teams.
The competition includes the Army Physical Fitness Test, a 10-kilometer road march, basic rifle marksmanship, orienteering, weapons assembly and disassembly, a grenade assault course and constructing a one-rope bridge.
The name and spirit for the competition also honor the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. Training for this event includes rigorous physical fitness workouts, information classes on various elements of light infantry tactics, and a weekend field training exercise where rifle marksmanship, rope-bridge, land navigation,10-kilometer road march and many more skills are tested.
The winning 9-person team will represent the 3rd Brigade in this year’s Sandhurst Competition, April 20-21, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. They will compete against other U.S. Army Cadet Command teams, select teams from West Point, the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School team, and international teams.
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