Ranger Challenge Detachment Cadets Derrick Giggey, Jonathan Ritter, Brian Looney, Ryan Sweet, Shaun Looney, Rob Shalvoy, Gordon Brown and RPI students Michelle Cody ’12, Adam Taylor ’12, Adam Huller ’13, and Kevin Downey ’15 ranked second of out 44 schools, and first place in the Rudder Division, in a 48-hour test of warrior skills, strength, stamina, and mental grit. Those 44 schools included the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy, and the Valley Forge Military Academy.
Since before classes started, volunteers from across the Mohawk Battalion have met every morning at the 42nd Infantry Division, Watervliet Arsenal, Siena College, RPI, and University at Albany campuses before sunrise.
Selection throughout the training season was continuous. After an initial hell-week, the Detachment conducted fitness and skills training every day of the week for almost two months. The Detachment began with 22 cadets and ended with 12 after selection, making Ranger Challenge the most competitive and demanding program the Mohawk Battalion offers.
Between morning training and the Ranger Challenge Training Weekend at Camp Smith, the Detachment conducted more than 200 hours of skills training—ranging from one-rope bridge construction to 10-kilometer ruck runs to close quarters combat—in preparation for the 2011 Second Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition.
The competition is held at Camp Smith and is continuously timed; moving quickly from event to event counted towards the overall team score. The team began the day by scoring an average of 309 on the APFT. Immediately after crossing the finish line, Cadets scrambled into their army combat uniforms, grabbed weapons and rucks and took off towards the land navigation testing site, an uphill trek four kilometers away. Checking in at the site, the team was handed 20 10-digit grid coordinates and casually told, “Your time starts now.” The Detachment split up, briskly coordinating buddy teams’ routes and points before sprinting into the woods. An hour later, the team had found all 20 points across a square kilometer of ravines, draws, and spurs.
The Detachment then moved to the one-rope bridge testing site, was given one minute to ground rucks and prepare to cross, and was then handed a rope, a water jug, and a box of ammunition, and told, “begin.” In a carefully rehearsed sequence, the far-side man was clipped onto the rope and sprinted into the water with the jug. As he swam, the near-side man constructed the tightening system. When the far-side was secured on the opposite bank, the pull team took the slack out of the rope, which was then secured to the near-side tree where the first cadet to cross was already clipping in with his improvised harness. Eight cadets zipped across the rope to the far side, one towing the ammunition box. The one remaining on the near-side broke down the knots and dove into the water, racing to stop the time on the far-side in four minutes and 10 seconds.
Shaking water out of their equipment as they ran, the team moved to the react-to-IED lane, where they conducted a simulated patrol towards a crippled vehicle, pulled a casualty from the vehicle and performed lifesaving hemorrhage-control, and correctly radioed in a MEDEVAC request. Meanwhile, cadets on security identified a secondary improvised explosive device, adjusted security, and protected the casualty during extraction back to the Forward Operating Base.
The team then moved back down the hill to the next event, the Leaders’ Reaction Course, where it constructed a makeshift bridge over a security wall and extracted containers of gasoline from a simulated enemy compound.
The next event tested cadets’ ability to distinguish between hostile and noncombatants in stressful “shoot/don’t shoot” scenarios on the Army’s state-of-the-art Engagement Skills Trainer.
Next, the Detachment ran to the weapons assembly test, where every cadet was given a plastic bin filled with a completely disassembled M4 rifle, M9 pistol, and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The team completely assembled 30 weapons in less than four minutes before moving to the hand grenade assault course, in which buddy teams had to suppress targets before engaging a bunker, troops in the open, and a second-story window with hand grenades.
The team then completed the Commander’s Challenge, a mystery event testing mental agility, and the written test, which tested knowledge of weapons systems and tactics.
Day two of the competition began at 6 am with the ruck march, which took the team across 10 kilometers of trails and more than 1,400 feet of elevation in just over an hour.
The team dominated the Rudder Division and placed second overall behind Pennsylvania State University, whose student population is double that of Siena, UAlbany, and RPI combined. Mohawks who volunteer for this highly selective Detachment go above and beyond in their dedication to Mohawk Battalion, sacrificing much for an unknown and receiving little formal recognition. It has been an honor leading this team, and I am proud of all the Mohawk Ranger Challenge Detachment has done this year and will continue to do in the future.
Cadet Gordon Brown
Union College ’12