Sam Campbell | Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The 1st Engineer Brigade hosted Fort Leonard Wood’s fifth annual Junior ROTC Raider Challenge Oct. 19 — a highly-physical, all-day, multi-event competition designed to test the high schoolers’ mettle.
Leavenworth High School Team 1 won first place in overall team score. Junction City (Kan.) High School’s Team 1 finished second, and Leavenworth’s Team 2 finished third.
“This is a big event for 1st Engineer Brigade, for Fort Leonard Wood, for all of (the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence) and certainly a big event for all of these high schools,” said Col. Kip Korth, U.S. Army Engineer School commandant. “We had 19 teams show up this time.”
The Waynesville JROTC program acted as a sponsor of the event, with cadre and cadets from the district volunteering their time to assist in scoring, oversight and other administrative tasks.
Cadets joined each other near the Fort Leonard Wood Horse Stables for a five-kilometer run just before sunrise, and later battled for first place in four rapid-succession events, including the “gauntlet,” a strength and speed exercise where teams raced to carry a 68-pound dummy on a litter for two miles; the physical endurance course, which features rope climbs, high wall obstacles and crawls under barbed wire; the one-rope bridge, a task requiring cadets to cross a gap using nothing more than one rope, carabiners and quick teamwork; and the physical training test, a multi-part fitness exam, requiring alternating exercises of crawls, pullups, quarter-mile sprints and dummy carries.
Cadet Anthony Black from Boonslick Technical Education Center, out of Boonville, Mo., said the gauntlet became challenging, but he and his team took heart in their shared purpose.
“We kind of hit that point where we started to ask ourselves why we’re out here doing this in the first place — because there are a lot more things we could be doing that’s not putting us through this physical stress — but really we started thinking about our own will and how to get through the obstacle ahead of us,” he said. “Teamwork has helped to bring us together.”
Retired 1st Sgt. Wayne Cogdill, LHS JROTC instructor, led his team to back-to-back runner-up trophies at the national Raider competition. He said he enjoys bringing his team across state lines to compete at the installation partially due to its intensive physical endurance course.
“I love the facilities,” Cogdill said. “(Cadets) actually get on a real military obstacle course. It gets my kids ready for nationals.”
Retired Col. Charles Williams, Waynesville JROTC instructor, said the competition is attractive to teams far and wide because of the hard work 1st Engineer Brigade puts in.
“There’s probably 100 lieutenants and noncommissioned officers out here working,” he said during the competition. Teams want to come here “because of what 1st Engineer Brigade does.”
Korth praised the brigade for organizing an event of such high quality, and said that nationally recognized programs seem to be forged at Fort Leonard Wood’s competition.
“Over the last two years, the runner-up from the national (Raider challenge) has come from this event here at Fort Leonard Wood,” Korth said. “I am confident that the national winner will come from here,.”
Wrapping up the day, each team selected two of its top runners to compete in the Raider Buddy Run along the path surrounding the barracks at Indiana and Kansas avenues.
Every cadet, cadre, instructor, volunteer and spectator lined the way to cheer on the competitors.
Cogdill said he hopes his cadets walked away from this experience with an appreciation for teamwork.
“It’s a competition. We’re here to win, but you know, at the end of the day, it’s all about these kids,” he said.
Korth agreed. “They are taking care of each other and moving forward together,” he said. “I’m absolutely impressed by that.”He added that the cadets’ dedication to something larger than themselves inspires him. “These young men and women — this is the future of not only our military but our nation,” Korth said. “Whether they decide to join the military or not, it doesn’t matter … They will be successful, but the values, the leadership, the teamwork, the toughness that they learned here in JROTC will carry them forward.”
Editor’s note: The Leavenworth High School teams will compete in the national championship Nov. 2-3 in Molena, Ga.