MSOE students in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) are headed to a regional competition next week after earning first place in the Wisconsin Ranger Challenge. The Ranger Challenge is a competition between ROTC programs in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan that combines critical thinking, military skills, and physical conditioning.

MSOE junior Jenna Harrington (pictured above, standing, far right) and sophomore Matthew Oldendorf (standing, far left), both cadets in the Milwaukee ROTC Golden Eagle Battalion, were on one of the three award-winning teams the battalion sent to the competition. It was the first time in the history of the program, which is based at Marquette University, that cadets placed first in all three team categories: Cadet Team, Cadet Co-Ed Team and Cadet Open Team. The teams are made up of cadets from Marquette, MSOE and UW-Milwaukee.

“The Ranger Challenge tests you physically and mentally,” said Harrington, who previously won first-place in the national buddy ranger contest. Cadets are briefed the night before the competition, which begins at 4 a.m. Cadets complete lanes, or stations, that test their abilities in a variety of areas including grenade throwing and claymore set up, and medical and fire response, to name a few. Obstacle courses, a rope bridge, and a written test are also part of the competition. Cadets complete the contest in full uniform carrying a 35-pound rucksack and test their land navigation skills using a compass and map to get from one lane to the next. In early November, the nine-member cadet and five-member co-ed teams will go on to compete at the Midwest Regional competition at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Harrington and Oldendorf are members of the nine-member cadet team.

Harrington, who is from Madison and completing a degree in biomedical engineering, earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology with a pre-med emphasis from UW-Green Bay before coming to MSOE and joining the ROTC program. Oldendorf is from Buffalo City, Wisconsin, and working on his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Both have strong family ties to the military.

“My mother served in the Army National Guard, father in the Navy, and my brother Michael is the Army ROTC Battalion Commander at UW-Oshkosh/Fox Valley Battalion,” Oldendorf said.

Harrington’s grandparents served in the Marines.“I believe our country is something to have pride in and fight for, every day,” she said. “We don’t realize how truly lucky we are.”  

Harrington and Oldendorf have found that their studies at MSOE and in the ROTC program complement each other well. “The land navigation that we do in ROTC goes along with what I am studying in my surveying class,” Oldendorf said.

More generally, they learn leadership and planning skills in the ROTC that are reinforced in the classroom. “Planning and flexibility is key in life and in the army world especially,” Harrington said. “I decide what (academic) subjects are priorities and designate time limits,” she said. “When something comes up I can adjust my schedule and still get my priorities done.”

Learn more about ROTC opportunities at MSOE.