Austin Peay ROTC cadets finish second at Bold Warrior Challenge
Austin Peay State University Governor’s Guard ROTC cadets continue to show why they’re among the best in the nation.
Their latest achievement – finishing runner-up in the 7th Brigade ROTC Bold Warrior Challenge Nov. 2-4 at Fort Knox, Kentucky – strengthens the battalion’s claim to an eighth Gen. Douglas MacArthur Award, which goes to the eight top-performing ROTC units in U.S. Army Cadet Command.
The Bold Warrior is a grueling, two-day challenge that pushes cadets during six straight hours of competition the first day and 16 hours the second day. Cadets covered about 40 miles of terrain during the two days, much of the time carrying ruck sacks.
“The whole point was to challenge everybody both mentally and physically, so everywhere they went they had to solve a problem,” Lt. Col. Eric Westphal, APSU professor of military science, said. “They had to have a plan; otherwise, they wouldn’t be successful.”
Austin Peay succeeded, competing against 17 teams and beating such universities as Michigan State, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. All the teams in Bold Warrior had advanced from a preliminary round that included cadets from 109 schools.
MEET THE BOLD WARRIOR
Cadets faced dozens of challenges during the two days, earning points along the way.
Friday night’s competition kept cadets at the barracks complex and challenged them with a series of physical and mental tasks, including climbing a 15-meter rope and navigating monkey bars as many times as possible in 10 minutes. Austin Peay finished the night in fifth place.
The next morning took the 11-member teams into the field from 6 a.m.-5:30 p.m. The day started with a 3.2-mile march to Fort Knox’s training area, where the cadets faced 15 challenges, or stations.
“They drop you off in the middle of the training area at Fort Knox and tell you ‘stay on this road until someone stops you,” APSU cadet and assistant team captain Daniel Cole said. Each stop represented a challenge in the competition. “‘Amazing Race’-style, we had to pick how we’d attack each challenge with the end state being getting as many done as you could.”
CONQUERING PONT DU HOC
The most difficult of the challenges, “Pont du Hoc,” came in the afternoon, said Cole, a former sergeant first class and participant in the Army’s Green to Gold program at Austin Peay.
APSU team coach and retired Master Sgt. Keith Colman described Pont du Hoc this way: “They had to go down almost a cliff probably 250 meters, and then they had to climb back up. There were parts of it when they were on all fours, holding on to the rope, climbing.
“Once everybody was on top, one person had to touch a placard hanging in a tree.”
The cadets didn’t find a solution at first.
“It was the first time I saw the team struggle for a second,” Cole said.
Cadet Kylie Head noted she had experienced a similar challenge while cheerleading.
“So, they made a human pyramid and threw her up there to hit the sign,” Colman said.
Austin Peay was one of only four teams to finish all the challenges.
EXCELLING AT THE COMMANDER’S CHALLENGE
After the Day 2 stations, cadets faced a 4.5-mile march over rough terrain. This was more than 12 hours into the day. APSU cadet Wesley Gray finished first and cadet Thomas Porter finished third.
“It was just breaking people, they were hurting,” Westphal said.
The day wrapped up with the Commander’s Challenge, a CrossFit challenge known as a “Murph.” Cadets had run a 1.25-mile relay, do 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats then run the relay again. The Murph happened at the end of 16 hours of competition.
By the end of the day, Austin Peay moved from fifth to second place.
“They were amazing,” Westphal said.
THE SECRET TO AUSTIN PEAY’S SUCCESS
Several factors and strategies helped set Austin Peay apart:
- Teams earned extra points the second day by sending out cadets to find geographical points, or Easter eggs. Most teams sent out cadets at each station; APSU sent out two cadets – Jasmine Barrios and Alden Marvin – for the entire day. The duo found all but three points and hiked more than 40 miles.
- Gray and Porter are members of Austin Peay’s track team and completed, sometimes single-handedly, the marching and running events. In one running event, they combined for 10.3 miles, Westphal said, a feat other teams used all their cadets to accomplish. For his efforts, Porter won team MVP.
- Austin Peay tried to attack each station in the order they appeared, and if they needed to wait for another team to finish, they’d eat, rest and plan. Other teams often bypassed stations – then returned to them later – instead of waiting. The APSU team then ran to the next station, often passing other teams, and passed several during the day.
- Austin Peay always benefits from cadets who are military veterans and from its proximity to Fort Campbell. The team’s captain, Steven Price, and assistant captain, Cole, are both former Army sergeants first class, for example.
- Austin Peay spent three months training for the competition. Westphal said cadets will continue to train through the year for next year’s Bold Warrior.
“The second-place finish set the bar high for next year’s cadets,” Gray said. The winning team, Central State University, advances to the U.S. Military Academy’s Sandhurst Competition in the spring. “Although we all would have liked to win the competition to compete at West Point, our team now has more experience as to what it takes to compete at that level.”
A PEEK INSIDE THE CADETS’ TRAINING
Gray broke down the three months of training (5:45-7 a.m. every day) leading up to the Bold Warrior:
- Monday: CrossFit with a 3-mile run after. Map reading 3-4 p.m.
- Tuesday: 50-meter sprints on the track, then sprints up the Dunn Bowl hill, followed by knot-tying. Map reading 3-4 p.m.
- Wednesday: Push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups, following by rope bridge practice in uniform and ruck. Map reading 3-4 p.m.
- Thursday: 5-mile foot march in uniform with ruck.
- Friday: Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, dips and interval runs.
MEET THE TEAM
Team members who participated at Bold Warrior were Paul Kearney, Braydon Donnell, Alden Marvin, Thomas Rose, Steven Price, coach Keith Colman, Jasmine Barrios, Kylie Head, Brendan Hagens, Daniel Cole, Wesley Gray and Thomas Porter.
TO LEARN MORE
- For more about Austin Peay’s Governor’s Guard ROTC, visit https://www.apsu.edu/rotc/.
- To learn more about the Sandhurst Competition, go to https://www.usma.edu/dmi/sitepages/sandhurst%20competition.aspx.