Lehigh University’s Army ROTC cadets recently continued a more than two-decade tradition of placing third or better in the annual three-day Ranger Challenge Competition at Camp Smith in Peekskill, N.Y.
Each year, the Lehigh Valley Steel Battalion, which is hosted by Lehigh, sends a team to compete in the 2nd Army ROTC Brigade’s annual Ranger Challenge Competition. The 2nd Brigade encompasses colleges from Maine to Pennsylvania. Competing in the more challenging large-school brigade division, Lehigh this year came in third behind Penn State’s first-place and Seton Hall’s second-place finish.
The annual competition pits the Lehigh Valley Steel Battalion against 40 other colleges and universities across the Northeast in a bid for the coveted Commander’s Trophy.
“We are extremely proud of our cadets and our Ranger Challenge team since they’ve trained extremely hard over the past nine weeks,” says Lt. Col. Erik Walker, Army
ROTC professor of military science and department chief. “They’ve physically and mentally prepared themselves to handle and endure the stress, the demands, long hours and conditions of this competition. This is a true test of leadership and teamwork and our cadets always rise to the occasion and excel.”
Walker says that the Lehigh-based ROTC program always has a strong showing by the cadets who want to “excel, push themselves to the next level and be part of an awesome team.”
“We’ve consistently witnessed a steady increase of cadet support for this competition, as they realize and understand the benefits of teamwork, physical fitness and mental acuity,” he added.
Mastering the skills to succeed
The diverse group of cadets in the Lehigh Valley Steel Battalion are drawn from 13 other local colleges and universities across the Lehigh Valley. The Lehigh ROTC cadre includes a staff of seven military personnel, two government contractors, two government civilians and one university coordinator.
Currently, Walker oversees the progression of 120 students in the ROTC program locally, including 30 student cadets at Lehigh.
Members of this year’s team included Marc Bisher ‘11, MS4, team captain, from DeSales University; Sean Camperson ’11, MS4; Laura Eull ’10, MS4, Matt Yosua’12, MS3; Ben Rosen ’12, MS3; Christian Bryan ’13, MS2; Jacob Howell ’14, MS1; Harrison Clark ’14, MS1; and Jeff Holinaty ’14, MS1 (team alternate) from Lehigh; Curtis Alban, MS3 from Kutztown University; and Tim Anzovino, MS3, from DeSales.
The rigorous training for the competition took place over a period of nine weeks, and often included six-day-a-week practices that began at 5:30 a.m. Training took place on and off campus to include Goodman Campus, South Mountain Park and Fort Indiantown Gap.
Competitions included a physical fitness test (which included push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run), the assembly and disassembly of various weapons, a land navigation event, an urban operation exercise, casualty evaluation and evacuation, the construction of a rope bridge, a 10-kilometer road march with a 35-pound rucksack on their backs, and a Commander’s Exam, which tested their knowledge of military science.
“Balancing academics, Army ROTC, sports, and a social life is demanding for any college student, but Army ROTC Cadets rise above their college peers,” Walker says.
“They like adventure, like leading and making decisions, like being a member of the team, and thrive on being the best they can be.”
Walker says his cadets achieve that lofty goal by prioritizing their schedules and their lives, and by learning solid time-management skills.
“They need to master those skills if they want to be successful not only in college, but also in ROTC as they aspire, learn and train to become future officers in the U.S. Army,” he says. “It’s not always easy, but incredibly, they find that fine balance.”