A 2016 Gordon Central graduate will put his skills to the test alongside fellow members of the University of North Georgia Ranger Challenge team on Friday and Saturday for the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition, held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Nicholas Nesbitt, a senior at UNG, will compete against other colleges from the U.S. and other countries in Ranger Challenge, the varsity sport of Army ROTC. And the team is hoping for another successful performance following last year’s finish as the top ROTC school, beating all 36 West Point teams on their home course and securing a fourth-place overall finish.
UNG’s team earned its return to Sandhurst by winning the Spartan Ranger Challenge hosted by the First Brigade of U.S. Cadet Command from Oct. 25-27 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. UNG was the best among 18 teams from the nation’s junior and senior military colleges at the October competition. UNG is one of 49 teams slated to compete at Sandhurst, including 19 from the four service academies, 16 ROTC teams and 14 international teams.
Teams compete against other colleges in events such as patrol, marksmanship, weapons assembly, one-rope bridge, grenade assault course, Army Physical Fitness Test, land navigation and a 20-kilometer road march. Nesbitt said the specific events in the competition are not known until the day of, but the skills needed for the events are disclosed in a “warning order.” The skills needed for this year’s competition is what landed him at West Point for the first time.
Last year, the events did not match his specific skill set, so other team members made the trip. But this year, with events seeming to be built around short distance and speed, Nesbitt’s agility and strength have led him to the competition, he said.
Army Maj. Donovan Duke, an instructor in the Department of Military Science at UNG and coach for Ranger Challenge, said having some seniors in the program has helped strengthen the group’s bonds.
Duke noted UNG’s Ranger Challenge team has cadets who can provide comic relief, who are quiet and strong, who are natural leaders, and who are leaders who know when to follow.
“We have a good mix,” Duke said.
Nesbitt is one of those seniors, who said his coach is stressing the power of positive affirmations. Nesbitt and the team were at West Point on Thursday, trying to keep loose and not expend themselves before competition.
Nesbitt has been on the team for three years, after participating in Junior ROTC and the Civilian Air Patrol throughout high school. That experience coupled with a fondness for camping and shooting made Ranger Challenge and UNG ROTC a proper fit, he said.
Throughout the school year, the Ranger Challenge team has fitness training every morning Monday through Friday, as well as training, known as labs, on tactics and techniques three days a week. It’s an act in time management for Nesbitt, who balances the responsibilities of course work with Ranger Challenge.
“I have to have my priorities focused,” he said, adding that a 19-hour course load last semester was particularly taxing.
After graduation, Nesbitt plans on going to U.S. Army flight school for helicopter pilots, where he will gain experience in the craft. Then his goal is fly medical helicopters for Northside Hospital in Atlanta, he said. His interest in flying was peaked from his time in the Civilian Air Patrol, he said, especially from training with Air Force pilots.
“I knew this is what I wanted to do,” he said.
Nesbitt is a recipient of the Georgia Military Scholarship, which requires for him to stay in the Georgia Army National Guard for six years and he can be commissioned as an officer following graduation.