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Cadets represent U.S. in military ski competition

UNG Cadets Skiing Competition 1
UNG cadets Will Walters, Garrett Wilson and Dallas Yeargin created an improvised tobaggon to "evacuate" a teammate during a portion of the 36-hour Military Ski Patrol competition in Poland.

Will Walters, Garrett Wilson and Dallas Yeargin, all members of the Corps of Cadets at the University of North Georgia (UNG), admitted that they got a few strange looks standing in skis in front of the Library Technology Center. But how else are you supposed to practice throwing a grenade from skis when there's no snow on the ground?

The simulation was just one way the three cadets spent several weeks preparing for the third annual international military competition "Military Ski Patrol" held March 5-9 at Szklarska Poreba in the Jizera Mountains of southwest Poland. The cadets' travel to and from Poland was funded through a grant from the Olmsted Foundation.

UNG Cadets Skiing Competition 2
From left: Garrett Wilson, Will Walters, and Dallas Yeargin.

"It's a chance of a lifetime for them, it really is," said retired Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Cato with the UNG Office of Commandant of Cadets; he oversaw their training and took the trio abroad. "It's challenging, but they learn a lot about themselves and each other and working as a team."

The Gen. Tadeusz Kościuszko Military University of Land Forces (MULF) in Wroclaw, Poland, which is one of UNG's international partners and organizer of the event, invited the three cadets to participate. The trio was the only team from the United States in the competition, which included Polish and Czech military cadets and elite mountaineering and special forces units from around the world.

Yeargin, a finance major from Elberton, Georgia, and member of the Corps' Colombo unit, said he is proud to represent his nation and his university and knows the experience will be helpful in his role as a leader in the Corps of Cadets.

"Since we've gotten so much extra training just preparing for this competition, it's going to make us better leaders and teachers as we teach the younger cadets coming into the Corps," Yeargin said.

The 36-hour event entailed negotiating a mountainous, 40-kilometer course carrying a 35-pound pack. Teams also had to complete several tasks, including conduct a crevasse and avalanche rescue, throw simulated grenades, evacuate a vehicle using mountaineering tactics, shoot small arms, build a snow shelter, create an improvised toboggan to evacuate a teammate, and first aid.

"The way it's described it sounded like a Ranger Challenge competition, which I've been to, but in snow, in Poland and on mountains," Wilson said.

All three had honed their skiing skills with daylong practice runs at Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina. Additionally, they received special training in tactical casualty combat care (TCCC) and advanced military mountaineering operations from the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, which conducts the mountain phase of U.S. Army Ranger training at Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia. The three made sure to keep in top condition with daily physical training, extra ruck marches and work on basic mountaineering tasks such as rope work and other skills they already learn as a member of the Corps of Cadets.

Walters, an accounting major from Barnesville, Georgia, looked forward to the competition and the opportunity to learn from active-duty military from other countries.

"It really makes you step back and realize other people do things differently and seeing the way they do things really makes your mind open up," Walters said.

Wilson, a marketing major from Lawrenceville, Georgia, and member of the Corps' Ranger Challenge team, said the chance to participate in the competition was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

"Professor of Military Science Col. Brent Cummings said during our FROG Week that 'life's all about opportunities we're all given and whether we capitalize on those opportunities.' This is something you definitely can't pass up; it's great training," Wilson said.

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