Seton Hall’s ROTC Ranger Challenge Team placed second overall and first in their division at the second annual Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition held from Oct. 16-19. The 10 person team has achieved what no other Seton Hall team has done before.
“In the past Seton Hall has always been an average performer,” Major Joseph Gagnon, director of admissions for ROTC said. “We’re elated by how well they did.”
The Ranger Challenge Competition is held in mid-October every year in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. The competition consists of 10 events and 24 schools participate.
Cadets compete in many diverse events from weapon assembly to building a one man rope bridge to map reading.
Last year the Seton Hall team won their division and cracked into the top ten; this year they moved up a division, still won and finished second in the field.
“After each event, we would check the standings and saw that we were slowly creeping up,” Gagnon said.”Going into the last event we were in first.”
However, in the final event, a road march where cadets race to finish a 10k while carrying a 35 pound rucksack and an M16 Assault Rifle, Rutgers beat out the Seton Hall team.
“Never has there been a New Jersey finish, so if we couldn’t win I am glad it at least stayed in the state,” Gagnon said.
Captain David Eckenrode, the Ranger Team coach this year, agreed.
“I am a Rutgers alum, so I was happy to see how well they did, but it was a thrill to see how well our guys and girl did,” Eckenrode said. “They exceeded my expectations.”
According to Gagnon the success of the team began last year because a lot of the cadets got experience then and were able to use that this year.
Also, the ROTC instructors, or cadre, were more involved this year than in the past.
“The cadre went above and beyond to help (the team) train every day,” Gagnon said. Senior Battalion Commander and Ranger Team captain, Kyle Lee, also gave credit to the cadre for the team’s surprising finish.
“The cadre provided a lot of support and the National Guard also let us borrow some weapons this year to practice with,” Lee said.
Upon finding out the final results, Lee said he was surprised.
“It was pretty unbelievable to beat schools like Penn State and Lehigh, not to mention the US Naval Academy,” Lee said. “I am really proud of how hard the guys worked.”
Although the final outcome of the competition was a good one, the entire weekend was not all successes.
“We had one bad event-weapons assembly, and it threw us all,” Eckenrode said. “But (the team) bounced back from it and we still entered the last event in the lead.”
Additionally, the Seton Hall team missed out on the top spot in the road march by about eight minutes. Despite this, Lee was still more than satisfied.
“No one has ever come close to this in at least the past 15 years,” Lee said. Though Lee will graduate in December, he still harbors expectations for the ROTC program.”I want the program to grow,” Lee said.
Gagnon was in agreement with seeing the program grow.
“This year we set a high water mark at 120 cadets at the beginning of the year but through attrition, we have lost some,” Gagnon said. “I would like to see the Battalion grow to 130 cadets who participate in the program regularly.
Jenna Berg can be reached at email@example.com.