ROTC training receives top marks

Army ROTC held its annual swim testing on Nov. 8 at Beyer Hall’s indoor pool. Members of Army ROTC were challenged to swim 100 meters in under four minutes while still in uniform. Upon completion of their individual 100 meter, students had to strip from their uniform without touching the bottom of the pool.

Kelly Mcgowan

JOHNSTON, Iowa – Bare feet lined the wall by the Beyer pool as uniformed ROTC cadets sat and listened to Ryan Brady explain rules for the swim portion of the badge competition that took place this weekend on campus and at Camp Dodge.

The line was broken in the center by a few pairs of tan army boots worn by ROTC instructors and armed forces members. Amid those, in black boots and with a slightly different, tanner, greener camouflage pattern on his uniform, sat Mike Kitzler, Sgt. Maj. of the German army.

Kitzler visited Ames to watch and present awards for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge competition. Stationed in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, he serves as a liaison officer and advises German commanders and instructors. A secondary part of his job is to make this badge competition available to soldiers.

“It’s a visual sign that the German army and American army are very much in cooperation with one another,” said Brady, a senior in history. 

Kitzler said that competition builds networks, relationships and leadership development.

The foreign badge will follow cadets through their career on their dress uniforms.

“Many of the awards that cadets receive stay with them only while they are cadets,” said Lt. Col. Richard Smith, professor and chair of the Military Science and Tactics department. “It’s really neat for the cadets to be able to get [this badge] at the jumping off point of their careers.”

Participants that earned a badge met minimum requirements for basic testing on Nov. 7, which included an 11X10 meter sprint, flexed arm hang and a 1000 meter run. Nov. 8 was the swim and pistol shoot.

The award ceremony, which took place on Nov. 9, was preceded by a road march during where participants carried 35 pound rucksacks.

There was also a first aid and an equipment test.

Performance determined if the participant earned a bronze, silver or gold medal.

German soldiers must complete this series of tests every year to stay in the army. Their events are spread over many months. Kitzler said that it is difficult to do it all in a weekend.

He said that it is an accomplishment to meet the challenging foreign regulations of the competition.

“Most of the Americans can’t swim,” Kitzler said. “When I grew up in Germany, my father threw me in the pool and I had to swim.”

He said that learning to swim is a part of the German culture at a younger age and noticed at last year’s competition that many Iowa State cadets failed the swim test, but saw “phenomenal” improvement this year.

Brady said that the swim test “will make or break you.”

To pass it, participants swam 100 meters in full uniform minus boots. Upon reaching the end, they removed their uniform while treading water without touching the side or bottom of the pool.

Cadet Craig Stanley, senior in mechanical engineering, passed the swim test with time to spare. The time to beat was four minutes.

“It’s like swimming with a parachute!” he yelled to the poolside viewers as he swam on his back to the finish. His sleeve had come undone, adding more resistance. He unzipped and removed his uniform, exited the pool and heard his time; 2:45.

Stanley said that it was physically draining but he enjoyed it. He earned a silver medal overall.

“I have a mentality of ‘you should lead from the front, your men should be looking up to you’” Stanley said. “[This badge] shows you’re motivated and wanting to put your best foot forward and make the army look good.”

Brady said that everything done in ROTC is meant to mimic positions in the army, including his leadership position of organizing the event.

“I love seeing people come out and compete and leave it all on the field,” he said. “I’m extremely happy with seeing everyone put in as much effort as I did to try and put the event together.”

ISU’s ROTC program co-hosted the event with the Iowa National guard. Participants came from those and the Air National Guard as well as ROTC programs from Drake University, The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Dubuque and the University of Northern Iowa.

“It really fosters that cooperation with other schools and ROTC programs to give them a chance at the rare opportunity of earning one of the badges,” said Austin Dummer, senior in marketing. “When you see someone wearing one of these badges, it really is a testament to their physical fitness as well as their moral capacity as a leader.”

Of the over 20 competitions for the badge held nationwide this year, the weekend produced the largest group of gold winners.

“The Iowa Guard and all of those who make up this team is what makes the Midwest and makes it special,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard. “You do it. You do it right. You set the standard.”