NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Stephen F. Austin State University’s ROTC program recently competed in the national Sandhurst Military Skills Competition in West Point, New York.

The Lumberjack Ranger Challenge Team competed among 44 teams of national Army ROTC programs and U.S. military academy companies, including the University of Georgia, Texas A&M University and the United States Military Academy.

“Most of the other ROTC programs that competed had at least 150 cadets, compared to our 65 cadets,” said Lt. Col. James Attaway, SFA professor of military science. “Despite the size difference, we were able to prove we deserved to be there and compete.”

The two-day competition challenges cadets through myriad events, including obstacle course navigation, rifle marksmanship and more.

“I have been in the Army since 1998 and attended numerous schools, including Ranger School, parachute training, air assault training, and Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape,” said Attaway. “None of these schools did as much in one day as this competition forced these teams to do.

“For example, on the first day of competition, cadets ran approximately 27 miles in boots and a full kit, which includes a vest and weapons, while completing multiple functional fitness workouts and military tasks. Our cadets are willing to go above and beyond to prove they’re the best.”

Despite the trials of COVID-19, the Lumberjack Ranger Challenge Team diligently worked to prepare for the national competition. For months, cadets trained physically for the competition through functional fitness, cardio, swimming and weight training exercises. Cadets also were trained on a variety of tasks by SFA ROTC field instructors, including land navigation, first-aid preparedness, tying knots and obstacle courses.