North Georgia tops military colleges in competition
By Forrest Berkshire
U.S. Army Cadet Command
FORT KNOX, Ky. — North Georgia College and State University claimed the top prize Saturday in the inaugural U.S. Army Cadet Command 1st Brigade Bold Leader Challenge.
The competition pitted 10 teams from Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs at six senior military schools in a marathon 15-mile military skills competition that tested physical endurance and teamwork.
The competition began Friday with two marksmanship events at the post’s rifle ranges.
But it was Saturday when their physical limits were tested. The teams had seven hours to traverse 15 miles across Fort Knox’s rolling hills. Scattered along the route were 10 stations where Cadets were given various tasks to complete, such as crossing a stream on a one-rope bridge, navigating an obstacle course and crossing an incline wall. Also along the route, the teams were given navigation points to locate.
Each station held its own unique challenges.
For instance, at the litter carry station, eight Cadets were designated to carry a wounded comrade through a zig-zagging lane of cones. The catch: All of the carriers were blindfolded and had to rely on the wounded Cadet to direct them by voice. If anyone among the carriers spoke, or if they tripped or if they knocked over a cone, they were assessed penalties that counted against their total time for the course.
At another station, called simply the scenario, Cadets came across a trailer set up as an enemy headquarters. They had four minutes to search the room for any useful intelligence, making sure they placed items they disturbed back the way they were found. Not until the end of the course, several hours later, did they learn they would be tested on what they found with a five-question test.
But while the stations tested their skills, it was the course itself that tested Cadets’ endurance.
“The course today was just grueling,” said Chris Lee, the team leader for NGCSU’s winning team.
About 10 miles into the course, Lee was pulled aside by cadre at the weapons assembly station who were concerned about him. His face was flushed and breathing hard.
The medic at the station asked him if he needed to be evacuated to the hospital as a heat casualty. Lee fought to stay with his team, accepting an IV of fluid but continuing on with his team after the event was completed.
Lee said there were some strong individuals on his team who carried the day.
“It was those individuals that stepped up and pulled it out in the clutch,” Lee said.
Lee said he couldn’t tell after he and his fellow Cadets finished the course whether they were in the running for first place.
“There were so many variables we couldn’t count,” he said. “And the penalties (at the stations) were crazy.”
The North Georgia Cadets weren’t the only ones who found the terrain taxing.
“We weren’t expecting the hills,” said Alex Adkins, a member of the Virginia Military Institute’s team. “Those aren’t a joke.”
VMI finished third. Virginia Tech’s Team 1 was second.
“This whole thing is about fortitude,” Col. David Hubner, commander of 1st Brigade, told the Cadets at the awards ceremony. “It was a gut-check.”
The course was designed to be tough for a reason, Hubner said. It was closely modeled after the Sandhurst competition held annually by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Cadet Command is invited each year to send eight teams, one from each brigade.
As the winner of this year’s Bold Leader Challenge, North Georgia will represent 1st Brigade at Sandhurst April 10.
“We want to go up there and beat West Point at their own game,” he said.
More photos from the event are online at Cadet Command’s Facebook and Photo Gallery sites.