Published: Dec. 18, 2013

Marching to victory in national ROTC contest

By: Alex Barhorst Media Communications alex.barhorst@cabs.msu.eduContact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709 Kristen.Parker@cabs.msu.edu, Bill Parker Department of Military Science office: (517) 355-1913, Ext. 227 parkerw6@msu.edu

After nine hours of physically and mentally grueling competition, a team of 11 members of MSU ROTC were named 2013 Bold Warrior Challenge champions.

The contest pits ROTC programs from across the nation against each other to test cadets’ marksmanship, weapons assembly, bunker building and more, all while subjecting them to roughly 20 miles of jogging between trials.

“I challenge anybody else to do what these cadets are doing,” said Doug Mulvaney, enrollment officer for MSU ROTC. “You have to focus and persevere even after you become physically exhausted.”

The contest—located in Fort Knox, Ky.—kicks off with a five-mile jog, with each cadet carrying a sack that weighs about 40 pounds. From there, participants consult their maps and decide which challenges to march toward, as some challenge destinations are miles apart from each other.

Contestants are given limited information before the Bold Warrior Challenge begins. For example, cadets knew they could complete a challenge by constructing a bunker at one checkpoint, but they didn’t know with what materials they could build before they arrived. The obscurity surrounding challenges makes improvisation an invaluable skill.

“It’s just like football or basketball,” said David Rocheleau, instructor for the 200-level military science course at MSU. “The team that makes the best halftime adjustments will likely win the game.”

Lt. Col. Bill Parker, chairperson for the MSU Department of Military Science, further likened the Bold Warrior Challenge and MSU athletics.

“Winning the Bold Warrior Challenge was like winning the Big Ten Championship,” Parker said. “We beat out Ohio State, Kentucky, Tennessee…this is a big deal for us.”

There are three different categories of challenges—physical, mental and military skills—and each team must complete four challenges within each of the three categories for a total of 12 completed trials. The course offers 21 challenges, so each team can avoid some obstacles and play to its strengths.

Teams are diverse: each group of cadets must have at least one female, a freshman, a sophomore, a junior and a senior. MSU’s squad leaned on its physical fitness and experience to lead it to victory.

“We competed last year and came up short, but we saw the strength of our team in last year’s contest,” said Nick Larsen, a senior studying history who leads MSU’s team. “The harder they make the physical portion of the Bold Warrior Challenge, the more it is to our advantage.”

As Bold Warrior Challenge Champions, MSU will get to compete in the Sandhurst Competition, an international contest between ROTC programs, located at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. The competition will give MSU’s future soldiers the chance to do what soldiers do best.

“We’re going to represent our country,” Larsen said. “It’s an opportunity to test what we’ve got against international competition. The Australian and British teams are usually the strongest, but this year I think we’ve got a chance.”

The 2013 Bold Warrior Challenge trophy won by the Spartan Battalion. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

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