Credit: Clarissa Clifton | Courtesy

The Cal Poly Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) took first place at the regional 2018 Ranger Challenge at Camp San Luis Obispo on Oct. 27.

The Cal Poly ROTC team had not won or hosted the event in six years.

The win advanced the team of cadets to the next stage of the competition, which will be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Seattle in January. There, the team will compete against the University of Hawai’i and the University of Montana.

“The regional competition offers a series of physically and mentally challenging events that have to do with military proficiency,” Recruiting Operations Officer Ken Harris said.

The competition’s challenges included an obstacle course, weapon qualification using an M-16 rifle, crossing the Chorro Reservoir in Zodiac boats, day-and-night-land navigation, calling for and directing artillery as well as leader reaction courses. The team also treated a casualty during a chemical attack, all while carrying 35-pound ruck sacks.

According to Harris, the whole point of the challenge is to drill down on some of the capabilities that would be expected of soldiers.

“This year we were very well prepared individually as well as the team overall,” ROTC captain and history senior Taylor Palmaffy said.

The annual regional competition hosted 11 ROTC college programs — Cal Poly, Fresno State, UC Berkeley, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara University, UC Santa Barbara, UC Los Angeles, University of Southern California, San Diego State, Claremont McKenna College and University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The scoring system was based on a scale of 1,900 points. Proficiency of the tasks and a time element were taken into account. Cal Poly scored a close 20 points more than Claremont McKenna, who came in second place.

“It was really the program-wide effort that caused the win,” Palmaffy said.

The team is composed of nine cadets and two additional alternates. In order to make the team, students have to tryout. The tryout requisites include having one representative from each academic class and having at least one female cadet who participates. The rest is primarily determined through proficiency in physical tasks.

The preparation leading up to the event required two hours of work, five times a week. Now that the team will go to Seattle, they will continue to train one hour, four times a week.

“No one has gone to Seattle before, so we really have to physically and mentally prepare,” Palmaffy said.

If the team wins the competition in Seattle, they will continue to the third and final Sandhurst national competition at West Point Military Academy in April.

“This third competition is a big, well-known event that hosts international teams,” Harris said. “Cal Poly has never made it this far and we really hope to do so.”

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