Haydn Griffin part of UNG’s ROTC title team at Sandhurst

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The University of North Georgia’s (UNG) Ranger Challenge program shows no signs of slowing down. UNG earned its fourth consecutive ROTC title and finished fourth overall out of 48 teams from around the world at the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition held April 29-30 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Ranger Challenge is the varsity sport of Army ROTC, and teams compete against other colleges in events such as patrol, marksmanship, weapons assembly, grenade assault course, Army Combat Fitness Test, land navigation, and road march.

Retired Army Maj. Donovan Duke, the team’s coach, said Sandhurst was the culmination of months of preparation, and it showed the dedication of UNG’s cadets to their craft.

“Our program continues throughout the year,” Duke said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You have to build up to it.”

Col. Bryan Kirk, UNG professor of military science, lauded the cadets’ tenacity at Sandhurst.

“The preparation, sacrifice and dedication of this team are inspiring. They enter each competition knowing every other ROTC team is out to take their spot, and the academies know that we are consistently within striking distance,” Kirk said. “The mental and physical strength of this team is clear in their consistent ability to compete at the highest levels.”

Esther Kim, a senior from Johns Creek, Georgia, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, was grateful to finish her college career strong.

“Even though this is our last event together before commissioning, this is a memory we will have forever,” Kim said.

In addition to Kim, the UNG group included team leaders Austin Gabriel and Daniel Shearer, squad leader Hayley Farmer, Ian Bryan, William Buettner, Justin Collado, Haydn Griffin, Shane Henderson, Zane Parrish, and Noah Umezaki.

Griffin is a resident of Bainbridge, GA.

The U.S. Air Force Academy took top overall honors, followed by a pair of U.S. Military Academy teams, UNG and Brigham Young University rounding out the top five.

Other U.S. service academies, ROTC units from across the nation, and international military academies all took part in the competition. Fellow senior military college Texas A&M University finished in ninth place overall.

“There is always an element of the unknown in competition,” Duke said. “But our cadets performed well across the board.”

Duke said kinesiology faculty members Dr. Parker Hyde and Dr. Sabrina Maginnis provided valuable insights that helped UNG’s team physically prepare for Sandhurst and that their assistance will be vital going forward.

Austin Gabriel, a senior from Winterville, Georgia, pursuing a degree in criminal justice, said he and the other more experienced cadets have enjoyed working alongside younger teammates this year, all with the goal of making sure this type of success is possible in the future.

“The younger guys have mentors to help them know how to train for future competitions,” Gabriel said. “We didn’t always have that during COVID-19.

Positioned in the fastest-growing region of the state, the University of North Georgia comprises five campuses united by a single mission focused on academic excellence and academic and co-curricular programs that develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society.

The University of North Georgia is a University System of Georgia leadership institution and is The Military College of Georgia. With almost 19,000 students, the University of North Georgia is one of the state’s largest public universities. The university offers more than 100 programs of study ranging from certificate and associate degrees to doctoral programs.