News_Hannah_ROTC.jpgfeaturing Matt Gernetzke ’17 

On Saturday, Feb. 6, the St. Norbert Army ROTC sent a team of five cadets to compete in the Northern Warfare Challenge held at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. At the event, 14 teams from five different states—Wis., Minn., S.D., Ill. and Mo.— competed in a 20-mile ruck march with four different tasks to complete along the way.

This was the first time the Green Knight Company (a part of UW-Oshkosh’s Fox Valley Battalion) participated in the Northern Warfare Challenge, and the team took third place overall with a time around 6:50:00. The Green Knight Company consisted of St. Norbert College ROTC cadets Erik Stoltzner ’16, Cole Andrekus ’16, Matt Gernetzke ’17, Jeffrey Van Grinsven ’17 and Joe Rebholz ’18.

Throughout the ruck march competition, each competing team’s cadets had to carry a rucksack (a military backpack) weighing about 33 pounds that held different supplies: socks, boots, cold weather gear, a fire starter and other survival situation materials. Cadets had to run, walk and hike over snow and ice throughout the duration of the march, which began at the National Guard Armory in Onalaska. The halfway point was to reach the top of Granddad’s Bluff, a little less than 10 miles away from the start of the competition.

Teams also had to demonstrate four different skills throughout the competition: building a snare, starting a fire, making a shelter and completing a five-mile casualty litter carry.

The Northern Warfare Challenge is designed to challenge cadets and give them a way to push themselves further in completing tasks that are both physically and mentally challenging.

Cadet Van Grinsven said the task was more mentally challenging, in his opinion.

“We were all capable of the physical task, but staying motivated to complete the ruck and the tasks along the way really required us to dig deep,” said Van Grinsven. “Several teams did not even finish the competition. We were determined to not only finish, but to push each other to get the best time possible.”

The Green Knight Company had about a month to train for the competition over SNC’s winter break, but only about two weeks actually training with each other. Team members were chosen primarily based on physical fitness and PT scores.

There are also many benefits for cadets competing in the Northern Warfare Challenge.

“The NWC provides the opportunity for Cadets to truly understand the importance of teamwork, physical fitness and having technical/tactical proficiency,” said Captain Anthony Perrizo, Assistant Professor of Military Science. “As future leaders they will be expected to create cohesive teams that are physically and tactically competent to solve the world’s problems. This competition provided a firsthand experience for these Cadets to understand these tenets as they develop into leaders of soldiers in the United States Army.”

Participating in the NWC can also benefit a cadet’s future career as a U.S. Army Officer.

“It gave me experience working with a group through a difficult challenge,” said Andrekus. “This will teach me to work to maintain a positive mindset with team members while they overcome obstacles as a group.”

“The most memorable moment for me was crossing the finish line as a team,” said Van Grinsven on the overall experience. “Everyone’s body ached, yet we motivated each other to keep putting one foot in front of the other until we crossed the finish line.”


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