Raider Challenge: South Rowan ROTC dominates event

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 19, 2006

By Nick Badgio

Salisbury Post

The 4th Brigade Raider Challenge at Fort Bragg should be renamed the South Rowan Raiders Challenge.

Why? On Dec. 2, South Rowan High School’s Raider Challenge team, part of the school’s JROTC program, won its second consecutive 4th Brigade Raider Challenge.

They defeated 32 other schools from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. to win the event that has been tagged by many as the “holy grail of southern Raider Challenge competitions.”

South’s JROTC instructor, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Mark Hafer, says a Raider Challenge team is composed of eight to nine cadets who participate in five strenuous events.

“The standards are very high,” he says. “It’s very demanding. That’s why so many fall short.”

The first event is a modified version of the Army Physical Fitness Test called a PT. Cadets are instructed to do as many push-ups as they can in one minute. In the same amount of time, they must accomplish as many sit-ups they can. The PT’s final stage is a mile run. Hafer demands that his cadets be able to achieve a minimum of 42 push-ups, 53 sit-ups, and a 61/2-minute mile.

“If they can do that,” Hafer said, “they will win in the PT challenge.”

“We’ve dominated the physical challenge the last two years,” he adds.

This year at Fort Bragg, the Raiders placed first in the PT.

The next four competitions are done in a round-robin format. One challenge is the team rope bridge. Cadets work together to attach a 52-foot rope between two posts, snap links onto the rope and travel across it. Points are awarded by time. Infractions cause time penalties.

Hafer says that all Rowan County JROTC teams have a reputation for possessing mastery of the team rope bridge. Other schools have even filmed Rowan County teams for instructional use.

South Rowan finished first in this event.

The next event is first aid simulation. The cadets must perform four life-saving interventions involving bleeding wounds, heat injury, shock and a fracture. A judge determines how well the cadets treat the wounds. The team must then carry the patient 200 yards on a stretcher. The Raiders placed second.

The third event is land navigation. Cadets are paired together and must navigate to three points. They are judged by accuracy and time.

“They gotta be precise and follow an azimuth and distance,” Hafer said. To do this successfully, he added, the cadets must be able to convert meters into a pace count. South Rowan finished third.

The next event is a 5K road march.

“To be competitive,” Hafer says, “you have to run.”

That sounds simple, but the cadets must wear full combat attire — combat boots, fatigues, and load-bearing equipment (LBE). The Raiders finished the day placing first in the run.

What has been the secret to the Raiders’ success?

“The reason we win is this,” Hafer says. “I get eight to nine superb athletes and share them with other coaches.”

All eight members of this year’s championship team participate in at least one other sport. Out of the eight cadets, seven of them are involved with wrestling or cross country.

“I have been blessed with coaches who have understanding of the importance of this event,” Hafer says.

South’s Raider Challenge team captain, John Misenheimer, said the training was “pretty intense.”

“We did lots of repetition with the PI. A week before (the 4th Brigade Raider Challenge) we focused on the technical stuff, like the rope bridge and first aid.”

“It’s major for our sports,” says South Rowan junior Blake Overcash. “South Rowan can be great at something!”

This year, South had two seniors on its championship team Misenheimer and Jacob Hill.

Other team members are Chris Kiser, Gary Roach, Philip Tilley, Will Misenheimer and Austin Martin.

“Next year I’m going to have six cadets from this year back,” Hafer says, “so my goals will be the same as they have been the past two years.”

Nick Badgio, a senior at Salisbury High, is an intern for the Post.