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Ranger Challenge team aims to defend ROTC title at Sandhurst

April 8, 2019

The University of North Georgia (UNG) Ranger Challenge team won't sneak up on anybody this year at the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition, set for April 12-13 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. UNG's finish in 2018 as the top ROTC school, beating all 36 West Point teams on their home course and a fourth-place overall finish made sure of that.

Cadet Walker Dunlap, a senior from Acworth, Georgia, pursuing a degree in criminal justice, was part of the team last year. He and his teammates believed they could do anything at Sandhurst, and their results backed it up.

Six of the 11 team members return to compete at Sandhurst this year.

"We're more prepared and know what to expect," Dunlap said.

Ranger Challenge is the varsity sport of Army ROTC, and teams compete against other colleges in events such as patrol, marksmanship, weapons assembly, one-rope bridge, grenade assault course, Army Physical Fitness Test, land navigation, and a 20-kilometer road march.

UNG's team earned its return to Sandhurst by winning the Spartan Ranger Challenge hosted by the 1st Brigade of U.S. Cadet Command from Oct. 25-27 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. UNG was the best among 18 teams from the nation's junior and senior military colleges at the October competition.

UNG is one of 49 teams slated to compete at Sandhurst, including 19 from the four service academies, 16 ROTC teams and 14 international teams.

"We definitely hold ourselves to a higher standard with our training," said cadet William Norman, a junior from Jefferson, Georgia, pursuing a degree in business management and a minor in military leadership. He is in his first year on the Ranger Challenge team.

Army Maj. Donovan Duke, an instructor in the Department of Military Science at UNG and coach for Ranger Challenge, said having some seniors in the program has helped strengthen the group's bonds.

Duke noted UNG's Ranger Challenge team has cadets who can provide comic relief, who are quiet and strong, who are natural leaders, and who are leaders who know when to follow.

"We have a good mix," Duke said.

Cadet Hayley Farmer, a freshman from Griffin, Georgia, pursuing a degree in criminal justice, is new to the team. She said the group uses the 2018 success as a motivation.

"Everybody's super driven and ready to compete," Farmer said. "Really we just want to represent the school as best we can."

Duke said he appreciates the university, the Corps' Commandant staff, the Army 5th Ranger Training Battalion, the Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office, Lumpkin County High School and Fort Benning for their support in helping UNG's Ranger Challenge team prepare for Sandhurst.

Cadet Chris Bissett, a senior from Cumming, Georgia, pursuing a degree in international affairs, was part of the team that turned heads a year ago at Sandhurst. He said this year's group is determined to get the job done no matter what.

"You can have all the training in the world," Bissett said. "You can have all the resources in the world, but I feel like that determination is what's really going to carry us this year."

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