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ROTC cadets participate in military skills challenge

March 11, 2010

Four UW-River Falls Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets qualified for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency in Bloomington, Ind., Feb. 9-12.

“Cadets from 26 campuses participated,” Major Tab Benzinger from the UWRF ROTC said. “There were about 500 cadets.”

Freshman Eric Henrichs and sophomore Taylor Lau received gold medals, and sophomore Hailey Myren and senior Dan Grove earned silvers for their performances.

The cadets were timed in sprints, distance runs, a 200-meter swim and a road march. They were also measured in high or long jump and shot put events and were required to complete first aid and pistol shooting qualifications.

“They started out [the first day] with a swim,” Benzinger said. “The next morning the cadets took part in a five-kilometer run.”

Grove said the runs were more manageable when compared to the other events because of the training the cadets receive.

“Some of the events like the high jump or long jump are things we normally don’t do,” Grove said. “It makes them harder to prepare for.”

Though practicing for the track and field style events is not usually a part of the cadets’ routine, Grove said they trained for the events for roughly a month prior to the challenge. While each cadet UWRF sent to Indiana received a medal, Benzinger said cadets from other UW System schools did not fare as well.

“Of the 12 cadets from Eau Claire and Stevens Point, four earned medals,” he said.

Requirements for the events depend on a participant’s age and gender. Male cadets under-29 must complete the 200-meter swim in six minutes, while female cadets in the same age class must swim the distance in seven minutes. All of the UWRF competitors were in the under age 29 group. The fivekilometer run requires young male cadets to finish in under 23 minutes and females to finish the same distance in less than 32 minutes, according to information provided for a similar event held at Fort Knox, Ky.

If the cadets are able to meet the qualifications in the events that present the biggest physical challenges, Myren said medals are then determined by how well one performs on the shooting range.

“You get five shots from 25 meters with a nine-millimeter pistol,” she said. “Three out of five targets is a bronze, four out of five is a silver, and five is a gold.”

While Lau successfully hit all five targets, her biggest challenge came in the 24-kilometer road march.

“[Lau] got blisters on her feet that bled through her boots,” Myren said.

The German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency is a challenge the Army ROTC borrowed from the German military, according to the event’s Web site. The badge is one of few foreign awards allowed by the U.S. military. “The medals are something the cadets will be allowed to wear on their uniforms in the future,” Benzinger said. “It allows them to show off what they’ve done.” Lau said that once a cadet receives a medal, they are ineligible to compete again.

“Though it’s only a one-time thing, we strongly encourage other people to go for it,” Lau said. “It’s something to be proud of. Normally cadet awards aren’t worn after you [graduate].”

Myren said was able to take more than just a medal home from the test. “I decided to do the GAFPB to challenge myself,” she said. “I hadn’t done a march that long before and I saw it as a personal challenge to complete it. I also gained a lot of self-confidence from the experience.”