CMC Army ROTC finishes second at Ranger Challenge military skills competition

Battling through steady rain, near-freezing temperatures and fatigue, cadets with CMC’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps finished second in an annual military skills competition last month in Washington state.

The 8th Brigade Ranger Challenge is a two-day contest at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the top three teams on the West Coast. To qualify for the competition at Joint Base Lewis–McChord near Tacoma, CMC won the South Ranger Challenge in November, beating all other competing Southwest schools.

Maj. Michael Doyle, CMC professor of military science, noted that CMC Army ROTC cadets took third at last year’s 8th Brigade competition. He is hopeful about the upward trend, despite continuing logistical hurdles.

“Our team has to sacrifice a lot more time and energy than other programs who have the advantage of living together on one campus,” Doyle said.

The CMC Army ROTC program houses cadets from five other schools — Azusa Pacific University, California Baptist University, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State San Bernardino, and UC Riverside — and they come together at Claremont McKenna’s campus to train.

To finish second, the CMC cadets had to work as a team in a series of physically demanding events. One, for example, had cadets navigating a military-grade Zodiac boat through Lewis-McChord’s wetlands. Before they could launch it in the water, team members had to carry the fully inflated boat between different stations and collect oars.

Other events included marksmanship, grenade tactics, medical treatment and evacuation, and an obstacle course. The cadets carried 35 pounds of gear as they marched from one event to the next.

Doyle said the Ranger Challenge teaches teamwork and problem solving under pressure, skills applicable to any field after graduation. For cadets going into military careers, he said, the competition replicates extreme tactical situations that Army officers may face.

“If a cadet can get through a Ranger Challenge,” Doyle said, “becoming a military officer will come that much easier.”

CMC’s Hunter LePla ’19 was on the competition team. LePla, an Economics and European Studies dual-major, said his goal is to serve active duty in the Army’s Aviation branch after graduation. He will have to compete with other cadets nationally for that opportunity.

After the Ranger competitions, he’s up for the challenge.

He said the 8th Brigade was one of the most physically demanding competitions he has done. Without having fully recovered from the 18 miles trekked on the first day, cadets were doing pullups before sunrise the next morning.

“I wanted to make sure I did all I could to help my team win,” LePla said. “My teammates were absolutely invaluable. They reminded me that we were in it together, doing the competition for each other, our coaches, and our entire program.”

—Michael Tesauro