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Cadets place fourth overall in Sandhurst and claim ROTC Cup

Members of UNG's Ranger Challenge team compete against cadets from West Point.

The University of North Georgia's (UNG) Ranger Challenge team placed fourth overall among 64 teams competing in the 2018 Sandhurst International Competition held April 13-14 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and brought home the ROTC Cup as the top-finishing ROTC team.

The team is led by unit commander cadet Capt. Addyson Albershardt, who was the only female commander of a team at the competition; all teams competing are required to have two female members.

"I knew we were competitive, but I didn't think we were that competitive. Before the competition started, I said to the team, 'We are going to turn some heads today,'" Albershardt said. "We were definitely the underdogs, because we hadn't competed in three years and we have a much smaller budget. The best part was realizing that though we placed fourth, we were the No. 1 U.S. Army team, so everyone was ecstatic for that."

Albershardt credits UNG’s Corps of Cadets' Leadership Development Program (LDP) with increasing her tactical knowledge, leadership ability and military skills. As a junior, her first leadership experience as a squad leader was a failure, but she challenged herself to improve.In the weekend competition, winning first-place was a team from the U.S. Air Force Academy, second was a Canadian team, third was a team from the British Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, fourth was UNG, and fifth was one of 36 West Point teams. UNG also earned "gold" standard for military competence.

"Failure made me angry because I did not know how to lead in a tactical environment, but I challenged myself to change that lack of confidence," she said. "I studied the Ranger handbook, I volunteered for positions that I did not know how to do, I asked questions, and I can now say tactics is one of my strengths."

Albershardt is in the North Carolina National Guard but plans to commission into the U.S. Army in May and graduate with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She credits her degree with educating her about how to prepare the team members to perform at the best of their ability physically.

"My major is all about training the adaptations to sport and human performance and I have to thank my professors who challenged me and taught me about improving the physical prowess of athletes," Albershardt said. "I applied my academic major every day, training the squad in our physical fitness." 

Since its inception in 1967, Sandhurst has dominated the event; only three American teams have won the competition since 1994 and an ROTC team has never won. This year, 36 West Point teams competed, 14 international teams, three additional service academies, and eight ROTC teams. Teams from Denmark, El Salvador, Greece, and Thailand attended as observers.

In 2015, the last time UNG competed at Sandhurst, the team placed second among ROTC teams and 23rd overall and earned the "silver" standard for military competence.

To be a successful Ranger Challenge team, cadets must have the attributes and skills the U.S. Army seeks in its 21st century leaders, said Army Maj. Donovan Duke, an instructor in the Department of Military Science at UNG and coach for Ranger Challenge.

"Cadet Command and the U.S. Army uses the 21st century leader attributes of character, presence and intellect and competencies to lead, develop and achieve to guide our methods and approaches for leadership development for all cadets. Ranger Challenge is no different, except some of those attributes and competencies are tested at a much higher level," he said. "Additionally, a good Ranger Challenge leader must be able to create an environment where every cadet feels that he or she is a significant and critical part of the team. The leader must motivate each team member to take ownership in the team goals."

Duke credited the leadership of Albershardt and cadets Michael Lockwood and Chris Bissett for the team's success, as well as support from UNG and the local community, including military science instructors, commandant staff, 5th Ranger Training Battalion, and the Lumpkin County Sheriff's Department.

"This was truly a team effort. Everyone contributed, not just the Department of Military Science," Duke said. "Not only is this a UNG win, it's a Dahlonega team win."

UNG advanced to Sandhurst after winning the Spartan Ranger Challenge hosted by U.S. Army Cadet Command on Oct. 26-29 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. UNG bested 18 teams with 198 total Cadets from the nation's junior and senior military colleges.

Members of UNG's Ranger Challenge team competing at Sandhurst include: Albershardt (commander), Lockwood (noncommissioned officer in charge), Walker Dunlap, Bissett, Evan Myers, Zachary Navara, Derek Whitmore, Tyler Chasteen, Madeline Kossover, Paul Rose, and Tristan Moran.

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