Duke Battalion Takes Third Place in Ranger Challenge

From: Public Affairs

JMU's Duke Battalion Ranger Challenge squad

The James Madison University Duke Battalion Ranger Challenge squad took third place out of 39 teams during their first action since a large restructuring of Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs in the United States.

In June 2009, the Army ROTC announced the scrapping of two of the previous three national regions, Eastern and Western, to move toward a more brigade-centric organization. The move reduced the number of regional brigades from 13 to eight, ultimately raising the number of Ranger teams in brigade competition with JMU from 13 to 39.

Now headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C., the competition often referred to as the "varsity sport of ROTC" pits squads against each other in challenges of one or more basic infantry skills such as rifle marksmanship, construction of a rope bridge, patrolling, assembly and disassembly of weapons, physical fitness tests, land navigation and road marches.

"The Ranger Challenge competition is without a doubt the premier event of any cadet that is part of the team. Itís a true test of skill, knowledge, physical abilities and endurance that exemplifies many of the attributes that we expect our cadets to embody," said 1st Sgt. Michael Ansbro, JMU Ranger Group adviser. "We werenít entirely sure of what to expect from the new teams and training area, so we had to push harder this year during our train up, as there were several different events that we hadnít done before."

The competition takes place each fall, and all cadets in good academic standing are invited to take part. But squads are generally limited to nine members and an alternate, making competition for the spots fierce.

"The team is typically comprised with the 'best of the best' from our program," Ansbro said. "We factor in the 'whole cadet' mindset, meaning academics, community service, and professional bearing are also taken into consideration. Just because a cadet is a physical machine does not mean that he or she will automatically be selected for the team."

With nearly 150 members in the Duke Battalion, fewer than 10 percent of cadets make the cut.

JMU Cadet Meredith Thompson, a rising junior and nursing major, scored the highest Army Physical Fitness Test score out of all Challenge competitors, male and female. She scored a phenomenal 382 on a 300-point scale and received the Brigade Commander's Coin of Excellence for her effort.

She also carries a 3.2 GPA in nursing, has been accepted to the upper-level nursing program and is a leader of the Duke Battalion.

JMU's ROTC program has a record of strong competition finishes. The Duke Battalion won the MacArthur Award for outstanding battalions in 1992, 1998 and 2005. JMU also claimed the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America Award in 1997 and 2007.

JMU's ROTC program was established in 1976 and commissioned its first lieutenants in 1978.

Ansbro said that Ranger Challenge participants do more physical training, weekends in the field, rucksack marches and studying than other cadets to be able to compete at a high level.

"The cadets that participate in this event are self starters and self motivators that want more out of their ROTC experience," Ansbro said. "They are physically tougher than the average cadet, more willing to accept the extra hours and training involved, and for the most part want to be the best at what they do."

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October 27, 2009