It’s known as the varsity sport of the U.S. Army ROTC, and a Siena-led cohort just earned a spot at its national competition.

The Ranger Challenge Competition brings together ROTC cadets for a nine-event contest on a non-tactical field. Cadets try out for their battalion’s team, then go through several weeks of rigorous early morning training to prepare.

The Mohawk Battalion team led by Cadet Kellyanne Cahill ’23 came in second place at the Second Brigade Ranger Challenge held October 22-24 at Fort Dix in New Jersey, competing against 43 other teams from an eight-state region. They and first-place finisher Penn State will compete in the national Sandhurst Military Competition at West Point in April 2022. These two battalions will join two teams each from seven other brigades from across the country, as well as a number of battalions from West Point.

“This was a very tight-knit team, and their sense of camaraderie and cohesion was immense,” said MSG David Rhoads, ROTC military science instructor at Siena. “I attribute their success to that. It was an amazing accomplishment considering that our battalion is made up of smaller ROTC programs. If you use the perspective of baseball, the small-market underdog team came out near the top.”   

As captain of the 12-member Mohawk Battalion, Cahill organized the training plan for the team, which also included Siena ROTC cadets Sarah Rule ’24 and Max Fiducia ’24, and cadets from the University at Albany, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 

The Ranger Challenge includes day and night orienteering, basic rifle marksmanship, a grenade assault course, M-16 assembly/disassembly, the Army physical fitness test, a written land navigation test, and a mystery event. Each team is awarded points based on how well they perform in each event.

How do ROTC cadets prepare for the Ranger Challenge? Instead of a bugle reveille, their cell phone alarms wake them up most mornings by 0400 – that’s 4AM for you civilians – to train on campus or another area location. They train for up to two hours, five days a week. When they’re done, it’s off to a full day of college classes and labs. 

Cahill said her primary inspiration for the team was fostered by recognizing how much they were capable of last year, when they placed third at the last season’s Second Brigade Range Challenge.

“Having the opportunity to foster and observe this group’s development into a cohesive unit and a team capable of placing second was an awesome experience, one that I take an absurd amount of pride in,” she said. “Training is hard and strenuous and exhaustive but seeing that work pay off and showing each individual what they’re capable of was the ‘end state’ this team deserved.”

Rule said she has seen Cahill develop as a leader over the past two years, and their team develop into a tight-knit unit.

“She showed us the way,” Rule said, and agreed that the hard work is worth it.

“There was never a day when I didn’t want to get up and train,” she said. “You just stay motivated day by day.”

When Cahill, Rule and Fiducia graduate from Siena they will be commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.