The Mil Ball – ROTC’s formal dinner & dance – started off around 6.30pm Friday. It was a lot of fun, but there’s not a whole lot of fun things to say about it. I was in charge of the cake cutting ceremony, which was fun. I can’t really explain it in less than million years, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say it was purdee cool.
But it finished up around 8pm – that’s when the cadre (Officers and Sargent’s) left so the cadets could drink/get a little wild. We stuck around ’til about ten, then bugalooed out of there. You see, I had to be at Baldwin Hall at 1:45am. So I wound up getting a little less than three hours of sleep before I was at it again. From Baldwin we loaded up into two vans. There were 12 of us, not including a Major and two Master Sargent’s. That makes for 6 teams of two cadets each, which is good because we were driving to the up-tenth annual Kansas University Ranger Challenge Buddy Competition. But don’t let my flippant tone fool you, we’d been training for it since we got back from Winter Break.
The Buddy Comp, or the 2man, or whatever you want to call it, is a lot like the Ranger Challenge I do in the fall. The eponymous difference being that, rather than squad-sized teams, it’s 2man teams. There are other differences, but the other big one is the events. Here’s the break-down:
I competed with BJ Monson. He’s a year younger than me, tall, laid-back, not half as loud as me (who is?), and a real amiable guy. I’m not about to get all sappy here, but I couldn’t have asked for a better Battle Buddy, ‘cuz there’s not one in the whole Cadet Corp.
We stepped off for a 5+ mile ruck run (in all our going-to-war-gear: boots and rucks and mock M16s and all) at 7am. The route was tough as nails, but pretty cool. We ran on the hardball (MilSpeak for “a paved surface”) for a bit, then cut into the campus forest, then ran through a big ‘ol patch of mud, stuff like that.
Then we split into groups, and everybody round-robined to the separate events. Since there were 40-ish teams, this helped speed things up a bit. Me and Monson, team 27, rocked the Litter Carry first. It’s pretty simple: there’s a stretcher, with two sandbags on it, that you have to navigate around various obstacles really, really quickly. Things like sliding it under wire while you low-crawl, “jumping” it over a chin-high wall, and fishtailing it around a bunch of poles.
The next event is called the crucible, a term which serves well as both a describer and a identifier. It’s a 200 meter sprint that includes two wire pits (where you’ve got to low-crawl in the mud), a rope climb, a quick Land Nav bit, radioing in a medievac request, carrying four (two for each buddy) forty pound water jugs from this line to that line and back again, “stepping” planks across a grass square (there are two planks and you both have to balance on them while passing them back and forth – tough enough when you’re muddier than a pig, and you get DQed if you touch the ground-“lava”), and a sprint to the finish.
After that, a quick Land Nav course, then a grenade assault course. After all that, we had about twenty minutes to scarf some food, pound a Gatorade, and change our socks before the baddest event there is or ever will be: the buddy run.
On the surface, the only difference between the ruck run and the buddy run is that the buddy run is slightly longer, and you don’t wear rucks. But there’s a world of difference between that first run and that last one. Everybody starts out the day like Rambo, but not everybody finishes like Rambo. And the buddy run route was even crazier than before – about a mile and a half of it was through knee high grass and across three creeks. And they worked it out so that the last half mile was one big ‘ol hill. Believe me, it was tougher than I’d like to remember.
Did it suck? Yes, three or four times over. But it’s the kind of suck that you can love, you know? And for as much as totally sucked, they were selling BBQed hamburgers for a $1 about 20 yards from the finish line. It’s funny how it works, but the hamburger wasn’t too special at all. But it easily makes the Top Five List Of Hamburgers I’ve Ever Had. And that’s a list I take seriously.
About thirty minutes after I finished my burger, they had the briefest&best awards&closing ceremony I’ve ever been to. I’ll preface this by saying that there were originally around 100 teams signed up to compete. Tornadoes in Kansas pushed the competition back a week, and I think that cut out a lot of the “fluff” that were just there to “have fun.” I mean, team 27 had a blast, but we were also there to knock the dust off everybody else.
Around 40 teams competed, we finished up in 7th place. Another Truman team beat us by 9 points to take 6th place, and another Truman team beat everybody to take 1st place. And having three teams in the top ten is, by all accounts, pretty stinking impressive. Not to slight the other three teams from Truman, they all did very well. I chalk it up to a lot of hard work, a little luck, a ton of effort, and coming from one of the best ROTC programs in the region, if not the country. I knew there was a reason I choose Truman.
In other, more drastic news, I have not been re-hired as a columnist next year. I still don’t know quite what to make of it, but the new opinions editor is a bit strange and very politically correct (which, I think, explains a thing or two). Still, writing for the Index was something I enjoyed doing and I’m enough of an egoist to believe that at least few other people enjoyed – and I few more enjoyed to hate – the reading of my words. I’m not about to let it ruin my summer, but I do admit I’m saddened. Frankly, I plan on dedicating the second re-printing of my first best-seller to that crappy no-good editor.
One last little thing: at the house I lived in in Australia, there were two showers separated by a wall that didn’t quite reach the celling. It was a bit creepy at first, but you could talk to the person in the other shower and it sounded no different that if you were talking across the table over a bowl of Weet-Bix. It was through this that we invented the Beer Shower. Seeing it takes a roughly equal amount of time to a) consume a beer and b) take a shower, it was only a matter of time before we combined the two and added the singing of classic rock songs.
So, needless to say, my pallies were all pretty impressed with the concept when I imported it to Kirksville, Missouri. And it just so happened to inspire my roomie David Mannell – who is getting to be a really, really good on the guitar (check his myspace) – to write a song. This, in turn, inspired the music video available below.
J. Kirk Fenton