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Bison Battalion Ranger Challenge Team Takes on Competition

A Bison Battalion team recently competed in the Ranger Challenge in Fort Dix, N.J., culminating a journey that began Sept. 1 as most students were still adjusting to the rhythm of college.

On early mornings, six days each week, the team’s nine members and two alternates – including Matthew Testagrose, of Shoreham, N.Y., enrolled in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s heavy construction equipment technology: Caterpillar emphasis major – prepared for competition. The Army ROTC cadets trained at Bloomsburg University for rappelling and at Susquehanna University for waterborne operations in which they carried an inflatable boat – along with their 45-pound rucksacks. At Bucknell University, they practiced throwing hand grenades, setting up a one-rope bridge and assembling weapons.

“It was really challenging and a lot of cadets didn’t make the team,” said sophomore Cadet Jonathan Mane, of Bucknell. “For those that made it, it was a lot of hard work; no one got off easy.”

This year’s team was smaller than in previous years, and, as always, had to have one freshman and one female cadet. All of the schools in the battalion were represented: Cadets Griffin Kearny, Zachary Colangelo, Frank Valenza, Nick Chiappone and Andrew Kurzeja, Susquehanna; Stephen Bessasparis, Mane and Luke Baker, Bucknell; Maria Micca, Bloomsburg; Lewis Lara, Lycoming College; and Testagrose, Penn College.

“This year’s team worked hard and learned a lot in the process,” said Kearny, who also served as coach. “The competition’s format was completely different than in years past, and the team overcame the challenges that came with it.”

The Oct. 6 competition itself was very demanding, beginning at 4:30 a.m. The events were physically and mentally challenging, requiring the cadets to test not only their endurance and strength, but their mental agility and knowledge in battlefield medical treatment and the different weapons that the Army employs. The Ranger Challenge comprised an obstacle course, a confidence course, a hand grenade assault course, a medical exercise, rappelling, construction of a one-rope bridge, waterborne operations and a “mystery event.” That entailed receiving coordinates and completing a brief land navigation course that led cadets to a set of keys – keys that unlocked a 450-pound tire they had to flip, end over end, 100 feet to the finish line.

Though their finishing placement was not as good as past years’ competitions, the team walked away with a sense of accomplishment.

“Ranger Challenge was an awesome experience,” Bucknell’s Baker said. “I’m sure all this new knowledge I gained will help me down the road.”

The team will take the spring semester off and begin training for the next competition in Fall 2013.

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