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​Students compete in the obstacle course portion of the 2nd ROTC
"Freedom" Brigade Competition at Fort Dix, N.J.

ROTC Battalion Enthused by Ranger Challenge Performance

Students of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Patriot Battalion at Providence College recently placed second in the obstacle course segment and 12th overall among 45 regional programs in the annual Ranger Challenge event. During the event, more than 300 universities nationwide field teams to compete in a series of challenging military-exercise events. 

This year, nine cadets traveled to Fort Dix, N.J., for the 2nd ROTC “Freedom” Brigade Competition against 44 other ROTC programs from the Mid-Atlantic and New England areas, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy. The team’s captain was Cadet Matthew Gallagher, a senior from Bryant University.

“This is a huge improvement,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Kugel, professor of military science and commander of PC’s battalion. “We usually finish within the top half overall, and this was our first time placing within the obstacle challenge.”

During this one-day competition, teams completed a 7.5-mile route that tested the members’ basic military skills. They negotiated numerous stations including an obstacle course, confidence course, burden leg mission, one-rope bridge, hand grenade assault course, rappelling operations, weapons station, boat movement, tactical combat casualty care lane, and a commander’s challenge.

“The event is a fantastic chance to build up the relationships between my teammates and me,” said Danielle McDermott ’14 (Highland Falls, N.Y.), a four-year scholarship cadet. “We were up and working at 6:00 a.m. Monday through Friday in preparation for the event. Our biggest achievement was the unit cohesion we maintained throughout the demanding training and the stressful competition.”

Kugel explained that the Ranger Challenge team members participate in physical training five times per week, whereas contracted cadets attend physical training three times per week.

Nicholas Marfongelli ’14 (Salem, Mass.), who has competed in the Ranger Challenge twice, said he was impressed with the amount of athleticism required.

He said, “The team has a lot of commonalities with any other sports team. We all train, practice, exercise, and work as a single unit through a constantly growing bond that ultimately facilitates our success. The only difference is that we practice real-life army skills.”

He said the event is demanding, and the cadets have “phenomenal preparation” under the leadership of other cadets. The Ranger Challenge training is student-run and only supervised by the military officers. 

“ROTC serves as an internship to be a commissioned officer, with the Ranger Challenge being an intense immersion into the military,” Kugel said.

A day in the life of a cadet

Kugel, who is a graduate of West Point and served three tours in Iraq, joined PC this summer for a three-year placement.

PC is the host school for the ROTC program for Brown University, Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island College, and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

“The typical day for a cadet is just like a typical day for a student, with the exception that our ROTC students attend physical training three times a week and a basic course which includes military leadership class or lab once a week,” said Kugel, who is a 19-year Army veteran.  

The ROTC education includes leadership development, military skills, and adventure training both in the classroom and in the field.

“We have about 95 students in all of our schools, and we commission about 14 every year,” he said. “Once contracted, this turns into a 10-year commitment, and it’s not for everybody.”

Alumni rekindle relationships

In order to help commissioned officers and other battalion alumni network, Rob Robben ’86, a Patriot Battalion graduate, and Kugel initiated the Patriot Battalion Association of Graduates (AOG). This battalion alumni association, which has its own Facebook page, will strategize ties between alumni and students and conduct fundraising to support battalion events and programs. 

“It’s incredible how much of a response there has been. People are reconnecting and rekindling their college and ROTC relationships,” said Kugel.

“The importance of an AOG is to foster a sense of belonging after the ROTC experience is over.  For many graduates of PC and our partner schools, the experience of ROTC is just as intense and special as the actual college experience,” Robben said.

— Genevieve Marie Ilg ’14


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