A team from UCF’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) took second place in a Ranger Challenge competition last month, competing against 39 universities across the nation at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The 11-member team will now face other ROTC teams, military academies and NATO allies in the International Sandhurst Competition held at the United States Military Academy West Point.
The Ranger Challenge — a grueling 18-hour, 25-mile competition — included physical exercises, shooting rifles and pistols, an obstacle course, a hand grenade assault course, artillery training, tactical combat casualty care and more. The cadets marched between locations while carrying rucksacks weighing nearly 50 pounds, including 10 miles on a land navigation course. Cadets also had to react to a downed pilot scenario by providing care to simulated casualty and carrying the soldier two miles on a litter.
Lt. Col. Keith Williams, a professor of military science, was proud of his cadets’ teamwork and camaraderie.
“They worked so hard throughout the year, and it definitely paid off,” says Williams. “I have no doubt that the UCF Ranger Challenge team will continue to dominate against universities throughout the country.”
The 11 cadets who competed — nine men and two women — were team captain Cameron Geigler, Falencia Aulibrice, Timothy Dziena, Matthew Dunbar, Peter Gaffney, Ashley Garcia, Paul Hayes, Zhiwei Lin, Gavin McMillan, Nicholas Plasse and Joseph Power. The cadets trained for months leading up to the Ranger Challenge, and the team’s success at the Fort Benning competition makes them one of only 16 ROTC programs out of 273 universities in the nation that will compete in West Point, New York.
“Our team has shown hard work, perseverance, sacrifice and most of all training and working toward a goal as a united front,” Cadet Dunbar says. “This team has developed a deep trust and understanding of what it takes to see the mission through. Our group’s determination and personal sacrifice is what ultimately led to our success and soon our victory in New York.”
UCF has a long history of supporting both active-duty military personnel and student veterans, as well as partnering with all branches of the military and the defense industry.
The UCF campus is home to two ROTC programs that train students to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Armed Forces. Roughly 170 cadets are currently enrolled in the officer commissioning program, led by nine active-duty cadre members. And this year, UCF Air Force ROTC Detachment 159 marked 50 years of partnership with UCF. An estimated 1,500 UCF graduates have become lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force and Space Force through this Air Force-UCF program.
The university has been ranked No. 7 for Best Online Bachelor’s Program for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report; one of the Best Colleges for Veterans by College Factual; and “Military Friendly” by Military Friendly Schools.
Since 2011, the Office of Military and Veteran Student Success has been serving a growing student veteran population – including roughly 1,400 who are currently enrolled. The resource center offers support and a sense of community to students, faculty and staff veterans on campus. Students use the space for studying and homework, and it’s also where they receive guidance on the use and benefits of the GI Bill.