Penn State Army ROTC Team Wins Regional Ranger Challenge


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A team of 16 Penn State Army ROTC cadets won the 2nd Brigade Ranger Challenge on October 24, beating 44 other teams from ROTC programs in the Northeast.

Hosted by Joint Base Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, the annual competition has cadets facing a series of events that challenge them both physically and mentally. Prior to the event, the Penn State team trained every morning of the week (and some afternoons) in addition to their regular ROTC duties, academic classes and personal training, said Lt. -colonel Daniel Gross, professor of military science at Penn State.

“We can see this as the varsity sport of ROTC,” Gross said. “I think they spend as much time on it as any student athlete.”

Captain Charles Brady, a military science and leadership instructor who advised the team, said such competitions test cadets in character and discipline.

“It’s really about building an enriched team,” Brady said. “The mission of any university, and Penn State in particular, is to develop capable character leaders.”

In April, the Penn State team will attend the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at the United States Military Academy in New York City. The competition features not only teams from West Point and other military services in the United States, but also international teams.

The Penn State Ranger Challenge team was led by three four-year-old cadets: Graham Bordo, Adeline Hester and Samuel Purchase. The Captains designed a weeklong selection course in the second week of classes in the fall semester 2021 to decide who would make the cut.

Even though the team have just achieved a hard-earned victory, the captains said they immediately started to look forward to the next competition at West Point.

“We were all very excited – we were delighted,” Purchase said of the hours after the competition. “We had a dessert that a lot of parents brought, but as soon as we were done, we were all talking about how we were going to train for the next competition.”

Penn State hasn’t won the Range Challenge competition since 2013, so none of the cadets have experience with Sandhurst. Now they will have a few more months to get stronger, faster, and perform better as a single unit.

“Training for Ranger Challenge only lasts about six weeks,” said Hester. “Now we have until April to train until the next competition. Honestly this competition is just to try and gain more time with the team. Otherwise we would be over until the Ranger Challenge competition. next year It’s really good that we now have five months with the team instead of just six weeks.

Bordo said that in the short term, team members will be working on their own personal fitness and team training will resume in the spring.

This year’s team was made up of:

  • Graham Bordo, team captain, fourth year, security and risk analysis major and information science and technology minor
  • Adeline Hester, team captain, fourth year, major in criminology and human development and family studies and minor in military studies
  • Samuel Purchase, team captain, fourth year, major in international relations and minor in military studies
  • Garrett Young, third year, major in mechanical engineering
  • Cameron Marshall, third year, major in kinesiology
  • Frank Miele, third year, psychology major and Arabic minor
  • Evan Waitte, third year, major in supply chain management and minor in business legal environment
  • Zachary Zotti, second year, major in nursing
  • Mathew Mendoza, second year, major in kinesiology
  • Nathan Monday, second year, history major and military studies minor
  • Victoria Purchase, first year, major in security and risk analysis and minor in military studies
  • Nathaniel Bampton, first year, physics major
  • Joseph Mazzarella, first year, major in supply chain management and minor in military studies
  • Zachry Stromfors, first year, major in forensic medicine
  • Alexander Rieth, first year, major in cybersecurity analysis and operations
  • Samantha Lange, first year, major in international relations and minor in military studies

This year’s Ranger Challenge competition featured nine events: a team fitness challenge; tactical combat casualty care; burden, where teams must move equipment across a course in the shortest possible time; familiarization with weapons; hand grenade assault course; rope bridge; obstacle course; land navigation and a six mile walk with 35 pounds.

Army ROTC is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination of university-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about undergraduate education at

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