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Eleven cadets from the University of
Delawares Army ROTC program earned a third-place finish among eight
ROTC teams and finished 25th overall among 60 competing teams at the
Sandhurst International Military Skills Competition at the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point.
The prestigious annual event, which is in its 49th year, took place
on April 8 and 9. Its a rigorous test of physical, tactical and
technical skills including marksmanship, land navigation and fitness.
Teams from all over the United States and the world participated, coming
from as far away as Korea and Chile.
The UD team earned the chance to participate with their surprise
first-time win at the Mid-Atlantic regional Ranger Challenge at Fort
Pickett, Virginia, last October. They trained early in the morning, two
hours a day, five days a week to prepare for both contests.
And preparation was a must: Teams at the Sandhurst competition
covered 37 miles, climbed 1,500 feet and completed 13 different
challenges over a two-day period with little rest. They bivouacked on a
very cold and snowy night, climbed through an obstacle course, competed
in a ruck run where cadets carry as much as 50 pounds of gear,
participated in individual events like a grenade assault and worked as a
team to move a Howitzer gun.
The experience was eye-opening for the cadets in many ways. They were
surprised both by the ruggedness of the terrain and by the physical
size of the participants on some of the other teams, many of whom had
participated in the competition before.
Nothing around Delaware can prepare you for the mountains, said
squad leader David Dinerman, a senior international business major from
New Providence, New Jersey. It was a complete team effort to get
everyone through them.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Angel Ortiz, a junior criminal justice major from Wilmington, Delaware, agreed.
Terrain was definitely the most challenging thing, he said. We
kind of knew what it would be like, but we didnt really know because
out of our whole team only two people have ever been to West Point
Micah Petersen, a junior from Houston, Texas, with majors in
international relations and Chinese studies was very aware that it was
teamwork and not individual physical size that helped the team succeed.
The last event was a Howitzer pull we had to pull it 400 meters.
And I thought heres our team that is probably the smallest team
competing, Petersen said. But no one had to turn the other person and
drag them along everyone knew they had to do it for the person on the
left and their right.
To facilitate communication, the squad of cadets was divided into two
teams, Alpha and Bravo, with Dinerman selecting a leader for each.
Petersen led the Bravo Team and Ortiz led the Alphas.
Team leaders chose which cadets would participate in individual
events, choices which led to a first place finish in the grenade
competition and an 11th place finish in physical fitness. It was that
trust in both leadership and teamwork that made the cadets confident
they would place well, regardless of their limitations in size and
We knew that its not about the look of the team; its about how
well the team operates as a cohesive unit. You find success using the
people around you to the best of their ability, Dinerman said. I
walked in knowing that without a doubt our strengths were that we would
outthink use our brains on that course.
Lindsey Baryluk, a sophomore international relations major from
Franklin, Massachusetts, said that the best thing about the experience
was seeing how the team worked together.
You really saw unit cohesion, she said. Everyone has strong and weak points but we worked together to enhance our strengths.
Another point of pride for the cadets was representing all 37 ROTC
programs in the region as well as the University of Delaware, which has a
much smaller program than those of the two schools (Texas A&M and
Penn State) that finished ahead of them. The cadets also said that
Delaware is a state that was unfamiliar to many of the foreign
participants in the competition and that they were glad to put
Delaware on the map.
At the end of the competition it wasnt, Where is that? Petersen said. Its, What are you people doing down there?
The team especially appreciated that UD Acting President Nancy
Targett and a group of University administrators came to one of their
early morning training sessions in March to offer words of encouragement
and wish them well.
Targett, in turn, expressed her admiration for the team.
I am so impressed by the incredible grit and determination displayed
by our cadets, she said. They set an ambitious goal, committed
themselves to reaching it and, as individuals and as a team, practiced
rigorously until they achieved it. I couldnt be prouder of them.
It may have been that sense of overcoming the odds that helped the cadets succeed.
We have to wear our school initials on our helmets, so the graders
can score us while were competing. One of the other soldiers asked me
if UD stood for Under Dog, Ortiz said. I said, Its University of
Delaware, sir, but in this instance thats pretty much the same thing.
More about the team and UD Army ROTC
The cadets on the winning team, in addition to Dinerman, Petersen,
Baryluk and Ortiz, were Colby Garbutt, Ian Milburn, Eriq Gloria, Todd
Thorp, Angel Ortiz, Alessandro Chiodo, Ellie Blake and Kristin Alwell.
Mark Couchman participated in the regional challenge but did not
accompany the team to West Point.
The Sandhurst competition started as a friendly rivalry in 1967 when
the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst presented the United States
Military Academy with a British officers sword. The sword was to be the
prize for a competition, the aim of which was to promote military
excellence among the Corps of Cadets. In 2016, 60 teams from 13
countries participated. Nine cadets, at least one of them a woman, were
required to participate in each event in the competition.
ROTC, the Reserve Officers Training Corps, is the largest
officer-producing program for the U.S. military. At UD, the Army program
is part of the College of Arts and Sciences
but is open to any student in any major. It is an elective that
combines courses in leadership, military science and practical exercises
with a regular academic course load.
The Universitys Army ROTC program currently has 112 cadets who are
students at UD or at its partnership schools: Delaware State, Salisbury
and Lincoln universities; Wesley College; and the University of Maryland