Challenge champions

Eagle Battalion wins Northern Warfare Challenge; event continues to grow

Cadets run down Grandad Bluff Road, the start of the Northern Warfare Challenge.

Posted 10:41 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22, 2021

Snow, ice and frigid tempreatuers were no match for UWL's Eagle Battallion, as it earned a hard-fought victory over teams from across the Midwest during the Northern Warfare Challenge on Saturday.

The Eagle Battalion hosted the annual challenge, which tested the endurance and strength of a record 29 teams, including an Air Force ROTC team flying in from Boston College. 

The teams marched 16 miles through Hixon Forest, with soldiers carrying 45-pound packs on their backs and taking part in knot-tying, fire-starting and marksmanship competitions, along with being evaluated on evacuating a simulated casualty. Participants also took a written test.  

“There's nothing like this in ROTC, and our students plan and execute the entire thing,” says Lt. Col. Erik Archer, chair of the UWL Military Science Department. “They begin planning in October and at this point hold daily meetings to confirm plans and finalize efforts. They are incredible.” 

The event's professionalism, challenge and design continue to gain attention. Cadet Command's Command Sgt. Maj. Jeremiah Gann, the senior enlisted soldier who oversees all ROTC programs nationwide, attended the event to observe and engage with competitors. 

Archer says with strict COVID-19 protocols and considerations, the size of the event was even more impressive. It was largely planned and executed by students in the Eagle Battalion, which includes students from UWL, Viterbo University, Winona State University and Saint Mary’s University in Winona. Medical stations for the event were staffed by nurses from Viterbo, while checkpoints, stations, scoring and the Tactical Operations Center were run by others in the battalion. 

“It is an incredible amount of responsibility and a leadership development experience that has few equals in ROTC,” notes Archer.  

Lead planners were UWL students Michael Hennig and Jordan Schuler.

Saint John's University and Michigan Technological University finished second and third, respectively.

Cadets line up at the start in Grandad Bluff Park.

Cadets run along the Bicentennial Birch Loop in Hixon Forest at checkpoint two.

The flag in Grandad Bluff Park peeks through the trees at checkpoint two.
Emma Fischer, an Eagles Battalion cadet and UWL student, checks teams in as they pass checkpoints. Fischer, along with many other Eagle Battalion students, coordinated the event.

The team from Michigan Tech enters the Mathy Tract.

A team crests a bluff near the quarry in the Mathy Tract trails.
Frost develops on a cadet's face during the race.

The Eagle Battalion team stands in third place at checkpoint three.

Cadets take a 10-minute break before the weapons lane challenge.
An overview of the weapons lane challenge in the Mathy Tract.
The Eagles Battalion team wins the ROTC Northern Warfare Challenge. From left, Max Goulet, Jacob Ryan, Nicolas Westerman, Austin Sevier, Sterling Roper and Austin Sevier.
The winning Eagles Battalion team and fellow cadets pose with the Northern Warfare Challenge trophy.