EWU ROTC finishes fourth at annual Ranger Challenge


Photos provided by Master Sergeant Jacob Baty of EWU’s Army ROTC

Eastern’s ROTC at the Ranger Challenge.

By Brandon Cline, Contributing Writer

The EWU Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) traveled to Boise, Idaho, over the weekend to participate in the annual Ranger Challenge against other schools located in the Pacific Northwest.

The EWU ROTC team finished fourth amongst ten teams, with Boise State University winning the competition. Gonzaga University finished second, and the University of Nevada, Reno finished third, just one point ahead of EWU.

Cadet and junior Brian Trabun, who is the captain of the ROTC’s Ranger Challenge team, said he felt pretty good about the team’s performance this year. “Overall, this is the best we’ve done, at least in my time at Eastern. We took fourth overall, and lost out on third place by one point, out of ten teams. We worked together well as a team.”

“We set Tuesdays & Thursdays aside for extra PT, and then often train for the event on Saturdays as a team,” said Trabun. He also added that the conditions in Boise over the weekend were “pretty brutal”, as temperatures hovered in the teens, along with seven inches of snow.

Programs from all over the country compete regionally in the Ranger Challenge. The ultimate goal is a trip to West Point to participate in the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition against service academy teams from throughout the United States and across the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Lt. Col. Jason Pape, department chair of EWU’s Military Science program, says the Ranger Challenge is the Army ROTC’s varsity sport. “Just like normal intercollegiate sports, Army ROTC programs are broken down by geography and traditionally compete against the same schools,” said Pape. “Just like the Big Sky conference, we have our brigade with over 30 schools and the brigade breaks down into smaller conferences with about 10 or 11 schools in each group.” Eastern is part of the 8th Brigade, comprised of schools located along the West Coast, according to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord website, the brigade’s tenant.

Evan Earnest, a Junior ROTC Cadet, is one of the newest faces to join Eastern’s ROTC program.
Evan Earnest, a Junior ROTC Cadet, is one of the newest faces to join Eastern’s ROTC program.

Each ROTC program is part of a brigade, and multiple conferences make up each brigade, which are determined geographically, said Pape. According to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord website, EWU is part of the 8th Brigade, which is comprised of over 30 schools along the West Coast. Schools such as Central Washington University, the University of Washington, Gonzaga University and Washington State University compete in the same conference as EWU.

Each school sends nine cadets to participate in the Ranger Challenge, along with one alternate in case of an injury. During the two-day event, cadets participate in both mental and physical challenges, including physical fitness tests, an obstacle course, land navigation courses in woods both during the day and at night, evaluating a casualty and a 10 kilometer road march with 40 pound rucksacks, according to the EWU ROTC website.

Even though there are many individual events, the Ranger Challenge puts a large emphasis on teamwork. The scores on individual events are averaged out amongst the team to give a cumulative score, so one cadet won’t be able to carry a team by him or herself.

“On the physical fitness test this year, they all run it together and everybody has to keep their hands on a piece of rope. They basically have to stay together, and one weak link could hold the entire team back,” said Pape, who competed in three Ranger Challenges when he was in ROTC.

Starting this year, the Ranger Challenge requires each program to have at least one cadet from each class standing, which provides a challenge for the incoming freshman team member, said Pape.

“Usually when somebody comes into ROTC, their first year they’re just trying to figure things out, and it’s a very steep learning curve,” said Pape. “In their sophomore year they feel like they’re ready to compete, so the hard part is finding one brand new student who just showed up this fall that’s ready to go out there and be a part of this team.”

The regional location where the Ranger Challenge is held rotates every year in the Pacific Northwest. Last year it was held at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, and three years ago it was held at Camp Seven Mile in Spokane.