3rd Annual Northern Warfare Challenge

04/18/2017   Story and photos by Master Sgt. Dalton Richard Military Science Instructor Missouri University of Science and Technology
 

Looking for a challenge that will push cadets both physically and mentally? The 3rd Annual Northern Warfare Challenge is hosted at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, Wis., overlooking the bluffs of the Mississippi River is the challenge that you are looking for.

Take the cold (really cold), snow, ice and wind; add in a 590 foot elevation change on that snow and ice, complete a 22 mile ruck march with 35 pound pack and you have a recipe for an intense challenge. The Eagle Battalion ROTC Department designed this particular challenge course in conjunction with the local community, using existing nature trails which double as skiing trails in the winter and the Wisconsin National Guard and Reserve Center gave the Cadets a place to bunk down the evening before their snowy adventure.

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Despite frigid temperatures and mental as well as physical challenges, Missouri university Science and Technology cadets leave the fire building station in great spirits. This particular challenge during the 3rd Annual Northern Warfare Challenge, hosted at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, Wis., required cadets to build a fire using batteries from a flashlight. The fire was required to be strong enough to burn string tied above fire pit. Any obstacles not accomplished during the challenge required teams to take a 30 minute penalty.

The event started off in true Army fashion with team safety briefings and route overviews for the cadets and cadre. The cadre received the all of the “DOs” and “DON’Ts” for the event as well as a map showing the route. However, this is designed to be as much of a mental event as it is physical, so spectators are forbidden from cheering on their team. Self-motivation and inter-team motivation is the only motivation permitted, no outside cheering or music. The cadets won’t find any warming stations or hot cocoa along the route either. The only refreshment a challenger would have to look forward to would be a slice of loser-cake back at the armory if they dropped out of the competition.

On the day of the Challenge everyone was ready for the five am start time, donning their competition clothing, their 35 plus pound ruck sack and preparing  themselves the best they could for what awaited them beyond the warm building.

Outside it was a chilly five degrees. Extreme weather conditions meant the cadets would have to monitor themselves more closely. At low temperature, too much clothing can actually be considered dangerous as well.  Too much clothing will cause excessive sweating, especially when you factor in a 22 mile ruck march/run. Most of the cadets compensated for the weather by bringing their silky under garments to wear under their uniforms.  Just as the competition was sent to begin the weather warmed to a whopping 12 degrees with approximately six inches of snow on the ground. The teams lined up in the snow and executed a shotgun-style start.

This year, two teams of five cadets each competed for Missouri University of Science and Technology. Team names reflected their status. The team that had competed last year was christened “the Veterans” while the first year team answered to “Rookies”. The teams trained together in the weeks leading up to the competition - two hours each day, beginning at 0500.

“We chose to set up our teams the way we did so that group cohesion was high,” explained CDT Cody Seckfort, captain of the Veteran team. “The last thing we want during a 20 mile ruck is people getting mad and frustrated with each other. In retrospect, however, mixing our teams based purely on physical ability may have allowed at least one team to finish the competition,” he concluded.

It wasn’t until the half-way point of the competition that the Cadre were able to see their teams on the course. Atop the Bluff at Granddaddy Point, a huge American flag and a great view over the cities of La Crosse and Onalaska and the Mississippi River greeted the competitors.   Coincidently, it was also the location of the first challenge.

The bluff made for a perfect place to challenge the teams to find themselves using resection on the map. As with each challenge, the teams could complete the challenge and move on, or take the penalty and be held for 30min at that station. The team had the choice to simply pass up the challenge and just take the 30min to rest and refuel.  Compounding the challenge at the bluff location was the wind. With a wind-chill of near zero, it was difficult to stay warm and concentrate on the challenges.

At the bluff, the Rookie team sustained a minor injury to one team member and opted to sit the 30 minutes instead of completing the challenge and moving on. The wind-chill created further challenge conditions as the “rest” became a struggle to stay warm and avoid stiffening up.  Team Rookie succumbed to injury and weather shortly after leaving the bluff location, but the Veteran team was able to continue for a while longer.

3492- Missouri University of Science and Technology cadets Baldi and Asberry reach Grandaddy Point during the 3rd Annual Northern Warfare Challenge hosted at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, Wis.

My team made it past the half-way point without injuries and with high morale. Our biggest opponent in this competition was time. We chose to set a slow pace that we knew we could maintain for the entire 22 miles, but the event NCOIC had placed time checkpoints along the way. Unfortunately for us, the NCOIC only informed us of the first hit time. Once we made this time, we were informed that we must travel six more miles in under an hour or we would be forced to stop. Given the hills and challenges that had to be conquered in this time, we knew it was an impossible task. We made it to another checkpoint within the allotted time frame, but once we completed the challenge, we were informed that we were terminated and should return to the armory by vehicle. I fought this to the end and fortunately, we were allowed to continue. It seemed crazy to me to stop competing at 1430 only because they said we wouldn’t finish in time. Luckily, my team agreed and we pushed on, fully knowing the next time we came across a NWC worker, we would be stopped.

I’m proud to say that after we were disqualified, my team pushed on for another grueling 4 miles up and down the bluffs. As we neared the point we were supposed to be stopped, I began thinking of ways to convince them to let us finish. Most of our team was still firing on all cylinders, and I knew given the opportunity, we could finish the SKEDCO [tactical rescue litter] pull. Unfortunately, we were stopped again by the event NCOIC and against my best persuasion, we were still forced to stop.

The ride back in the van was painful for multiple reasons. We were all cramping, but this pain was amplified because we didn’t finish crossing the finish line. This was a shot to our team’s pride, but we did conclude that we came in first in one aspect of the competition. Our team rucked the most miles after being disqualified. That may sound petty, but it was something we could take pride in.”

— CDT Seckfort

There were several other challenges for the teams who were able to continue along the route.  Cadets participated in a fire building station where they had to use the batteries out of their flashlight, a knot tying challenge and lastly the SKEDCO pull. The SKEDCO pull combined the cadet’s knot tying and lifesaving skills. The “casualty” had to be properly prepped for a long extraction in the cold. One member was selected to be the “casualty”, placed in a full sleeping system and strapped into the sled for the 4 mile trek through the snow trails back to the finish line.

Why do Cadets compete in such a cold, physical and mentally challenging event? Well not all Cadets do push themselves to this level. Cadet Culver told me “I do not know why I keep signing up for these kind of events!” But after seeing her complete in Northern Warfare Challenge, Ranger Challenge, and looking forward to the upcoming Ranger Buddy; they compete to make themselves better, to be ready to be that 2nd Lt., ready for what the Army will throw at them and to simply be the best.

The instructors cannot be more proud of their two teams for stepping out of their comfort zone and warmth of the home on the campus of Missouri University of Science and Technology to attempt this challenge. The heart of a future Soldier is very evident in these two teams to be winners and future Officers. The dedication to push themselves every morning at PT earlier and longer than the average   cadet proves they are all winners. Though they might have not made it across the finish line, they overcame the mental and physical challenge to be winners in their own right.

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The Griffon Spring 2017

Vol. 41.1 | Spring 2017

The Griffon
The Griffon is written and published quarterly in the interest of the 108th National Training Command.
 






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