May. 1, 2017
CWU ROTC army cadets earn prized international accolades
Seventeen Central Washington University Army ROTC cadets earned the highly-coveted German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, one of the few foreign awards that can be worn on United States military uniforms.
The badge can be attained by U.S. soldiers of any rank. However, opportunities to vie for the merit—much less receive it—are rare, especially for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets.
“Soldiers have 20-year careers and never get an opportunity to compete for one,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Ackiss, CWU Army ROTC detachment commander and CWU military science professor.
For the first time in program history, his ROTC cadets did get just such a chance during testing at the Yakima Training Center.
“We trained for a month for the three-day competition,” explained cadet Shane Small, the CWU team captain. “We’re beyond grateful for the opportunity, happy that we got it, and SUPER proud of what we did! It’s a great, first official badge with which to start off our military careers.”
The event tested the mental and physical toughness of 21 participating Central cadets, along with 44 active duty chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRNE) and explosive ordnance disposal soldiers from across the United States. The competition, at the Yakima Training Center, took place in conjunction with the U.S. Army’s CBRNE Leaders Course.
“Our cadre picked the top cadets that would go and compete,” said fellow CWU cadet Austin McKenzie, a sophomore from Bonney Lake. “As a cadet, the opportunity to earn a badge, and a foreign one at that, is something you don’t come across very often.”
The competition included a basic fitness test involving a series of sprints, a distance run, chin-ups, and a seven-and-a-half-mile road march, carrying a 35-pound rucksack. That was coupled with military-specific testing in first-aid, nine-millimeter pistol marksmanship, and swimming in full uniform.
“A lot of the events were timed and they fall into a scale. At the end, points were averaged out and you could earn a gold, silver, or bronze medal,” explained Small, senior, Issaquah, adding, with a touch of pride, that he earned gold. “I thought it was a hard test, but really well rounded and a good representation of what a soldier should be.”
Of the events, Small called the uniformed swim, which was held in the CWU Aquatic Center, the most grueling. That’s not surprising, as there is typically up to a 40 percent failure rate reported in that event alone. It was a sentiment with which McKenzie, another gold medalist, concurred.
“The weight of the uniform, when it’s soaked with water, is something your struggle with,” stated McKenzie. “Not only having to swim with it [on] but also go for time, that was definitely the most challenging event.”
During a campus ceremony, Small, McKenzie and the 17 other CWU badge winners received their awards from Lt. Col. Dirk Veeck, the German liaison officer at the U.S. Army Chemical School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
“It’s a way to find out if you’re combat ready,” said Veeck about the test. “Actually, you did an amazing job. I still can’t believe it.”
He pointed out that of the 65 total participants, the 21 competing CWU cadets earned 17 of the 38 badges that were presented overall. “Do the math, and you know how good you did,” Veeck added.
Ackiss added, “For me, it’s about the performance and the results. Because our cadets did so well in comparison to the active duty soldiers, it really shows that the training level and preparation we offer sets us apart from other universities.”
Established in 1981, the nationally regarded CWU Army ROTC “Wildcat Battalion,” named for the university’s mascot, consistently produces distinguished military graduates.
Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487, Robert.Lowery@cwu.edu
May 1, 2017
Photo: Lt. Col. Dirk Veeck (center) with the CWU ROTC cadets, and other dignataries, at the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency awards ceremony.