Pacific Lutheran University’s Army Reserve Officers Training Corps program sent a team of 10 to compete in the annual Ranger Challenge Competition at Camp Rilea over the weekend of Nov. 13.
Overall, PLU took third place behind Seattle University in first and University of Washington in second. The Lutes earned first place in knot tying and One Rope Bridge, and placed towards the middle of the pack in the rest of the events.
The weather was consistently heavy rain with winds up to 30 mph for the entire weekend. Every individual on the team, especially the first-years, demonstrated considerable character and grit to stick out the competition despite freezing rain, wind and soaking wet feet while carrying their ruck, helmet and other equipment from event to event.
Each year, every ROTC program puts together a team to compete regionally and, if successful, nationally at the United States Military Academy at West Point. ROTC as a whole is divided into eight brigades by region, and those brigades are divided into task forces.
PLU’s task force, TF West, included eleven universities this year: Seattle University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Washington, Central Washington University, University of Portland, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, University of Guam, University of Hawaii, Eastern Washington University and Pacific Lutheran University.
As a team PLU competed in the two-day physically and mentally rigorous competition, which the team began training for in the first week of September. Training for the competition included five days of morning practices per week beginning at 6 a.m.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday the team conducted physical training in order to prepare for the tough physical challenge the competition offers. On Monday and Friday the team would “ruck” which means carrying a military backpack of up to 45 pounds and moving at a slow jog for a set distance. At the peak of training, PLU’s team was rucking about five miles on Fridays, two on Mondays (which were followed by sprints on the track) and five to seven on Wednesdays, which were long distance run days.. Tuesdays and Thursdays were skills training days.
The team trained skills that were anticipated to be in the competition. At the beginning of the season they received a short instructional PowerPoint which hinted at what skills could be part of the challenge, but they never tell the teams exactly what to prepare for in order to test a team’s foresight and initiative. This year, the competition consisted of a 6k ruck, knot tying, One Rope Bridge, extraction of intelligence from an urban chemical environment, an obstacle course, weapons assembly and an Army Physical Fitness Test on the beach.
This season PLU’s team was lead and managed by outgoing senior Jacob Callewaert, from San Diego, California. Callewaert has been a member of the team all four of his years at PLU, and acted as Team Captain for the last two.
“RC always provided me the opportunity to challenge myself and those around me,” Callewaert said. “Each year we form a strong bond and endure countless additional skill and physical training hours in the darkest hours of the morning.”
He recently received the news that he will be entering the Army as an Infantry Officer come graduation in May. The rest of the team consisted of first-year students Hannah Peterson, Mitch Perantie, Ruben Quintanilla, and Levi Alton, sophomores Alex Moore, Jesse Scanlan, and Nick Lund, junior Dylan Ward, and seniors Jacob Callewaert and Sarah Barnes.