Leadership in Action

These Penn State students exemplified leadership, critical thinking, intellectual talent, and physical strength at the 2013 Sandhurst Military Stakes Competition, hosted by West Point.

The Penn State Army ROTC Nittany Lion Battalion team recently was honored after finishing first of U.S. teams and second overall in the annual Sandhurst Military Stakes Competition, which tests the strength, smarts, and mettle of members of teams from all over the world. The competition has been hosted by the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, since 1967.

In addition to placing first of all U.S. teams, the Penn State Army ROTC "Sandhurst team" placed second out of fifty-eight teams overall, national and international. Both placements are a huge accomplishment, said Col. Glenn H. Goldman, director of military instruction at West Point.

"The Sandhurst competition is a nationally and internationally recognized event that physically and mentally challenges squad-sized units (nine cadets) over a grueling two-day period," Col. Goldman said. To be No. 1 of the teams competing nationally is a crowning achievement for Penn State, he said.

In the international mix, Penn State was second only to a highly trained and carefully selected team from the Royal Military Academy-Sandhurst (UK-RMAS), the well-known prestigious source for military commissioning in the United Kingdom. Penn State, with 618 overall points, finished only 32 points behind first-place UK-RMAS, which scored 650.

“Penn State beat out every other international team, all the other teams from ROTC nationwide, and all the teams from West Point.” --Col. Goldman 

A Penn State ROTC officer crawls under metal bars during the indoor obstacle course.

Army Crawl

A Penn State ROTC officer crawls under metal bars during the indoor obstacle course portion of the Sandhurst competition. 

Image: Army ROTC

A Historic Win

Why is this historic? Besides being the best-ever showing of a Penn State cadet team, this is the first time an ROTC team placed that highly in the overall competition during the past twenty years that ROTC teams have participated in the contest.

“Penn State beat out every other international team, all the other teams from ROTC nationwide, and all the teams from West Point,” Col. Goldman said.

Teams compete every spring from countries including Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Chile, Brazil, Germany, People’s Republic of China, Qatar, and the Republic of Korea. Besides teams from the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and West Point, U.S. teams this year included the University of North Dakota (which placed sixth overall), Brigham Young University (which placed seventh overall), Texas A&M, East Tennessee State University, Georgia Southern University, University of Hawaii, and Appalachian State University.

Penn State's Jake Ahle climbs a rope during the indoor obstacle course portion of Saturday's Sandhurst Competition.

Climbing the Rope

Penn State's Jake Ahle climbs a rope during the indoor obstacle course portion of Saturday's Sandhurst Competition.

Image: Army ROTC

Teams are composed of nine cadets, with at least one member from each academic class (first-year to senior) and one female. Training for the event takes up most of the time of the team members year-round, with the six months directly before Sandhurst being the most focused period of preparation.

“The Penn State team was noted for its professionalism, focus, excellence, and skill.”--Col. Goldman

This is the third year in a row that Penn State has competed in Sandhurst at West Point. That means the Penn State ROTC team earned its ranking as the best in its brigade among more than forty teams in the northeast region of the country for the past three years. In 2011 and 2012, Penn State worked to improve and gain experience, culminating in a breakthrough with its performance this year.

Teamwork and Dedication

The four goals of the two-day Sandhurst competition are: develop and demonstrate leadership, showcase military excellence, build relationships—and win. This year’s competition was based on a scenario in which teams were given a mission and ordered to conduct a “combat patrol” that took them over rugged and varied terrain. Along the route, the teams performed intellectually and physically challenging tasks that allowed them to demonstrate their military and leadership skills.

Taylor Moran, center, holds Kate Bassett's hand Saturday as Penn State's team races toward the finish of the Sandhurst Competition on the campus of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Race toward the finish

Taylor Moran, center, holds Kate Bassett's hand Saturday as Penn State's team races toward the finish of the Sandhurst Competition on the campus of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Image: Steve Arel/U.S. Army Cadet Command

Penn State squad leader Jake Ahle, a senior majoring in Economics, considers teamwork and dedication to be the major reasons for success.

Cadet Joshua Ciccolini, a senior majoring in Crime, Law, and Justice, said that one reason for the success of the 2013 team is camaraderie.

“The chemistry that existed among the members of our team was based on friendship and forged outside of training,” Cadet Ciccolini said. “We spent time with each other and built a bond that would carry us to victory.”

Lt. Col. Ken Weiland, professor of military science at Penn State, commented after the Sandhurst competition that he was not surprised at the result. He pointed to critical thinking skills, physical fitness, and experienced team leaders as reasons for Penn State’s success.

Col. Goldman said that he and others involved with the Sandhurst competition were quite impressed with Penn State cadets and their talents.

“The Penn State team was noted for its professionalism, focus, excellence, and skill,” Col. Goldman said. “Your Penn State students competed on a world stage and brought great credit to your school.”

 

Credit note:

Some information in this article is based on a story by Steve Arel, a writer with the U.S. Army Cadet Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky.