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ROTC holds Dixon Challenge

Molly Madden | Thursday, November 19, 2009

Crawling under barbed wire, grenade training and responding to the fallout of a bomb all while carrying a 35 pound backpack — just an average test day for Notre Dame’s ROTC Army division.

Last night, about 100 cadets took part in the annual Dixon Challenge, a two-hour competition incorporating all the techniques the cadets have learned over the semester into a contest fought among the four platoons.

The platoons completed in four challenges, which consisted of a written test, obstacle course, grenade throwing and a simulation that tested the cadets’ knowledge of radio procedures. The challenge, while fun for many of the participants, is designed to test the cadets’ training.

“The Dixon Challenge is an important practical test because it is a culmination of the entire semester,” senior Marina Rodriguez said. “We do try and make it fun, though.”

Rodriguez, who is a cadet captain, oversaw the grenade throw, which involved having the cadets simulate positioning themselves behind a bunker and throwing a “grenade” into a 12-foot circle 20 yards away. Rodriguez said the cadets have spent the semester taking a “Leadership Lab,” which is the basis of their practical training.

Junior cadet Graham Hoar said he preferred the hands-on training to regular class because it gave him a chance to apply the techniques he had learned.

“It’s really nice to get away from the classroom,” he said. “Events like this give us a chance to exercise our leadership positions within our platoons.”

Hoar also said he liked the Dixon Challenge because it provided an opportunity for his platoon to bond.

“It really brings us all together,” Hoar said. “It’s much more interactive and it allows us to work together.”

Sophomore Michael Ferguson, a second-year cadet, said he liked the events because they required teamwork.

“It brings us all together in our platoons while pitting us against one another,” he said. “We all have to work together. On the obstacle course, we all had to organize and pull a truck as a unit.”

Senior Patrick O’Keefe, S3 Operations and Planning leader of the challenge, said one of the main goals of the night is to strengthen community among the members of the four platoons.

“It’s all about team cohesion,” O’Keefe said. “We build up the platoon by testing their abilities as a unit.”

O’Keefe said the event usually requires extensive planning, and this year saw even more preparation. 

“We’ve done the Dixon Challenge every year for a while now,” he said. “But this year we incorporated it with other events and made this ‘Warrior Week’ for the Army.”

“Warrior Week” started Tuesday and lasts until Friday. It consists of a series of physical contests spread over the week with the four platoons trying to win as many as they can.  On Tuesday the cadets had a physical training test, Thursday morning they completed a six-mile run and Friday they will convene for “Warrior Night” where they share a meal together and announce the winner. O’Keefe said the platoons covet the prize.

“The leader of the winning platoon gets one of those belts that the professional wrestlers wear,” he said. “Ours is almost as cool. It’s a plastic one from Wal-Mart, but winning this week is really more about bragging rights.”

O’Keefe said the purpose of the week is to lay a foundation for what the cadets will experience in the U.S. Army.

“All these events are preparation for the military,” he said. “It’s about learning to keep your head and retaining the knowledge you need to perform certain tasks so one day when you’re fighting to protect your sons and daughters, you know what to do.”