Thirteen teams of cadets from 10 Texas universities converged on
Fort Hood to compete in the ROTC Ranger Challenge competition held
October 27-29, 2017.
The nine-cadet teams pushed their
limits and tested their skills during each of the five main events.
Tarleton State University won the overall competition and Stephen F.
Austin State University finished second. Both universities had two
The cadets, many of whom will earn their
commission as second lieutenants within the next two years, began
the chilly weekend with a modified Army Physical Fitness Test
followed by the night land navigation event. The first frost
advisories of the year didn’t slow them down.
October 28, 2017 - Cadet Jordan Pineault, a Stephen F. Austin State
University freshman, tosses a grenade during the warrior task event
of the Ranger Challenge competition held at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Grace Geiger)
“We could have chosen to let it [the cold] have an impact
on us, but we decided not to,” Cadet Austin Laughlin, a
Tarleton State University junior, said.
fun overnight,” added Cadet John Zellmer, also a junior at
Tarleton State. “You’re part of a group that keeps moving no
matter what. We are a close-knit team, and we kept pushing
During the second day of the competition,
cadets spent hours moving kilometers between the six lanes
of the warrior task event, designed to test their tactical
skills before heading into the commander’s challenge event.
“It has definitely been tiring,” said Cadet Kyle Wolfe,
a Baylor University junior, after completing the one-rope
bridge. “Working as a team gives you a burst of energy to
get through it though.”
During the one-rope bridge
event, the entire team must cross a creek with all of their
equipment as fast as possible. Mistakes made can add minutes
of penalties to the final time.
“The one-rope bridge
lane challenges our attention to detail, and helps us expand
our skills and knowledge,” Wolfe said.
October 28, 2017 - Baylor University cadets cross a stream during
the one-rope bridge lane during the warrior task event of the Ranger
Challenge competition held at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Grace Geiger)
For some cadets, the Ranger Challenge competition was
their first experience at an Army base. However, for Cadet
Mathew Griner, a Stephen F. Austin State University
sophomore, Fort Hood is a familiar place.
at Fort Hood in April 2013,” Griner said. “I never thought I
would be back here.”
Griner served in both the 1st
Cavalry Division and 3rd Cavalry Regiment before
transitioning out of active duty in 2016 to join the ROTC
“ROTC feels like home to me,” Griner said.
“My instructors encouraged me to try out for Ranger
Challenge. It felt great to be on a team again.”
“Being an instructor is a great assignment,” said Burgin. “Going
directly from a deploying brigade, to mentoring cadets has been
rewarding but also challenging. The cadets are hungry for knowledge,
and it takes patience to balance getting training value with letting
them fail and learn from their mistakes.”
Prior to becoming
an instructor, Burgin was the commander of Bandit Troop, 1st
Squadron “Tiger,” 3rd Cav. Regt.
“It was fun to watch the
Ranger Challenge opening ceremony take place on Veterans Field in
the exact spot where I changed command in May,” Burgin continued.
“It was like a homecoming.”
The cadets finished up the
competition with a 10-mile ruck march and concluded with an awards
ceremony on the third day.
The winning Tarleton State cadets agreed the ruck march was the
most difficult event of the weekend.
October 29, 2017 - Lt. Col. Steven Tabat, the professor of
military science at Texas Christian University, hands the first
place trophy to Cadet Austin Laughlin, a Tarleton State University
junior, during the ROTC Ranger Challenge awards ceremony at Fort
Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Grace Geiger)
“It’s a team event, and you have to consider everyone’s
physical fitness,” said Laughlin, who has prior service in
the National Guard. “The entire weekend is a team event, and
I’m proud to have done my team well. This was an opportunity
to grow and to learn patience, competence and basic soldier
“This is what sets you apart from your
peers,” said Lt. Col. Steven Tabat, the
professor of military science at Texas Christian University, before
handing out the first place trophy.
“Being here shows your
dedication to becoming the future leaders of our Army,” he added.
Going from an organizational leader in his previous job, to a
direct leader developing cadets has been a completely different
experience, said Tabat.
“Watching the cadets training and
doing something they have never done before, and succeed is one of
the best parts of my job,” Tabat continued. “You can see the light
come on when they grasp something. They are motivated.”
Tabat, who also oversees the Baylor ROTC program, left Fort Hood in
the summer. Before taking over at TCU, Tabat’s previous assignments
included chief of staff at Division West and 1st Battalion, 393rd
Infantry Regiment commander.
It was Tabat’s TCU ROTC program
that hosted the three-day Ranger Challenge competition.
been fantastic coming back to Fort Hood. We received support from
all across the installation to make this event happen,” he said.
The 3rd Cav. Regt. works closely with TCU and provides support
to the ROTC program for events such as the Ranger Challenge
competition. The regiment has been partnered with the community of
Fort Worth since June, and part of the community outreach program
includes providing support to ROTC programs at universities within
the partnered community.
“We don’t have the same resources in
ROTC, and we rely on personal relationships to get the best training
experience we can. People want to help because they know this is the
future of the Army,” Tabat said.
By U.S. Army Capt. Grace Geiger
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