Covered in mud and exhausted from nearly eight hours of physically demanding competition, two Kansas University cadets were all smiles following their accomplishments at the KU Army ROTC Ranger Buddy Competition on Saturday.
Allan Blair, a junior from Lawrence, and his "ranger buddy" Jason Cha, a freshman from Shawnee, trained together daily for nearly two months, simulating some of the events they'd be expected to perform in the competition. Running helped them learn a rhythm and how to push each other, Cha said.
"When we got here we weren't worried about anything," Blair said.
Their confidence and efforts pushed them past stiff competition to place third overall in the men's division. About 81 teams from 18 universities representing 10 states, including Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, attended the annual competition at Clinton Lake Outlet Park.
"It's an opportunity for the cadets to come out and show their stuff," said Cpt. Mike Higgins of Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. "I mean, these cadets are the cream of the crop at their respective institutions."
The competition, which began at 6 a.m., consisted of a 10-kilometer ruck march; a weapons challenge in which cadets had to take apart and reassemble an M16 rifle; a hand grenade assault course; tying an increasingly complex set of knots; an obstacle course;a two-man carry holding 50-pound bags; and a 5-kilometer buddy run. It was a round-robin course and time penalties were given for mistakes. The best overall times won.
"(Blair) kind of pulled me the whole way there, but it was a good tactic and it paid off big time," Cha said.
Teamwork and physical strength aren't the only skills necessary for success in the competition or the U.S. Army, said Lt. Col. John Basso, KU professor of military science and battalion commander. Every event combined mental and physical challenges, he said.
"While they're exhausted they have to quickly plot a point on a map to an objective and tell us what that objective is," he said, "so that way they always know, it doesn't matter how tired you are in the Army, you still have to be able to clearly think or you're not really much use to your soldiers."
Sleep and showers were all Blair and Cha could think about after their performance.
"This event has actually been a really long day," Cha said.