Fighting Saints ROTC five-person team grabs two titles

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November 16, 2018

By Mike Killeen


A group of College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University students have had a tough, but very successful, fall campaign of competition.

You might think that describes the SJU football team, or the CSB volleyball team.

But it also describes a group of cadets from the Fighting Saints Army ROTC program.

The battalion’s five-person team finished first in two recent competitions. On Oct. 19-21, the team captured first place in the Task Force Level Ranger Challenge Competition at Camp Ripley, just north of Little Falls, Minnesota.

That advanced the team, made up of five cadets from CSB and two from SJU, to the Third Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition Nov. 1-4 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The cadets defeated four other regional champions to earn the title.

“The cadets are done competing in (the) Ranger Challenge until spring,” said Maj. Steve Beard, professor of military science and head of the Fighting Saints ROTC program, which includes cadets from CSB, SJU and St. Cloud State University. “I’m encouraging them to rest up and focus on academics for the rest of the semester. It’s definitely tough on their bodies.”

The squad consisted of:

  • Team captain and CSB senior Katarina Sulzle, a psychology major from St. Louis Park, Minnesota;
  • Cadet and CSB senior Kelly Heimer (formerly Dills), a mathematics major from Winchester, Kentucky (second event only);
  • Cadet and SJU junior Calin Techam, an environmental studies major from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota;
  • Cadet and CSB junior Jessica Hodges, a biochemistry major from Hermantown, Minnesota;
  • Cadet and CSB sophomore Megan Redalen, a biochemistry major from Rochester, Minnesota;
  • Cadet and CSB sophomore Jolene Lathrop, a psychology major from Stacy, Minnesota (first event only);
  • Cadet and CSB first-year Maureen Burns, a nursing major from Minneapolis;
  • Cadet and SJU first-year William Lee, a political science and global business leadership double-major from Fallbrook, California.

“The Ranger Challenge is the varsity sport of ROTC,” Beard said, noting that the event began in the 1970s as a way to prepare for Ranger School. “Now, we usually wait until they’re officers to send them, so what we’ve done is we’ve just tried to keep it as a way to motivate cadets and students to achieve a higher level of military proficiency and physical fitness.”

Much like a fall varsity sports team, the cadets reported to campus early and began a period of training for the events.

“They’ve been training three to four days a week ever since, and that’s in addition their regular physical training and ROTC and class requirements,” Beard said.

The Brigade Ranger Challenge consisted of a number of events that tested the cadets’ mentally and physically. The CSB/SJU team recorded five first-place finishes (in rifle and pistol marksmanship, hand grenade assault, land navigation, forced march challenge and a knowledge exam), plus one second (in tactical lane challenge) among 10 total events.

There will be a similar-type event in the spring at the University of Kansas. However, the format changes from five- to two-person teams in three categories – male, female and co-ed. “Our goal every year is to win all three (categories),” Beard said.

“I’m extremely proud of our cadets’ hard work and I look forward to see what they accomplish in the future,” Beard added.