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Thriving Army ROTC program kicks off training with memorial mountainside run

A squadron climbs the final stretch of the Aug. 25 Rogers Run to the LU Monogram on Liberty Mountain. (Photos by Liberty Army ROTC Cadet Scott Anderson)


Group training exercises challenge members of Liberty University’s Army ROTC Eagle Battalion to form tight bonds with their fellow cadets while developing tactical and technical skills that will equip them to survive and thrive throughout their military careers.

This year’s training exercises officially kicked off on Aug. 25., during the first week of classes, with all 109 cadets, including 26 first-year students, completing the seventh Rogers Run on Liberty Mountain. The 3.1-mile run from Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre to the LU Monogram and back is held in remembrance of World War II veteran George Rogers, Liberty’s former vice president of finance and administration who died at 100 in 2019, and former military sciences professor Maj. Michael Donahue, who died in 2014 while deployed with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

The cadets stopped at three stations along the course to hear the inspirational life stories of Rogers and Donahue.

“It was supposed to push these cadets and let them know, this may be hard, but this is what (Rogers and Donahue and others) who came before you had to go through, and they didn’t give up when the odds were stacked against them,” said senior cadet Derek Howell, who organized the run. “You’re going to finish together.”

Cadets line up in the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre parking lot before the start of the Rogers Run.

Howell, who is pursuing a degree in criminal justice with an advanced investigative studies cognate in strategic intelligence, recalled his first Rogers Run and how it helped launch his collegiate career path.

“When we got here, it was hard to run this,” he said. “We were nervous. This is a big program, and we realized we really did sign up for this. Now, we have fun, we all love it. We just started growing together through physical fitness and Liberty University’s focus on spirituality, which really helped us a lot. We developed a really tight bond and started hanging out outside of training and stuck with it.”

At the end of the run, Major Kyle Barrett, the Army ROTC officer in charge and an associate professor of military science, told the cadets that they showed the values of teamwork and unity toward a common goal.

“I liked that the squad leaders and squad members were rallying around each other to get through a pretty difficult run,” he said. “We’re going to provide you opportunities to test yourselves throughout your time here … to make yourselves better both inside and outside the classroom.”

“It’s a nice commemorative run, just to get a new group of cadets exposed to the culture within Liberty Army ROTC and get some unit cohesion and camaraderie, to build the team up,” added senior cadet Scott Anderson, head of public affairs. “They had a week of coming together, learning the program, learning more about LU, and growing as a class. From here, we’re going to move onto more leadership-style labs and skills training.”

ROTC is the largest officer-producing organization in the U.S. military. Graduates from Liberty’s Eagle Battalion are currently serving in various branches of the U.S. Army around the world. A joint battalion with cadets from the University of Virginia, it is one of the fastest growing in Virginia and the United States. Liberty will commission 33 second lieutenants this spring, when the unit will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

While some students join ROTC solely to challenge themselves with daily active duty, complementing their Christ-centered Liberty education with no military obligation, most graduate with four-year commitments to the U.S. Army, either on active duty roles or with the National Guard or U.S. Army Reserves. Prospective cadets can apply for up to four-year scholarships through ROTC.

Cadets help each other up the final hill, surrounded and cheered on by members of their squadron.

As seniors, cadets assume leadership roles under supervision from the cadre, gaining the skills they need before being commissioned as officers during Commencement in May.

Members of the Eagle Battalion participate in a weekly “battle rhythm” that includes special ROTC classes, physical training (PT) sessions, and leadership labs, where they gain an understanding of what it takes to be an Army officer.

Cadets will ramp up their training next month when they travel to Fort Lee in Prince George County, Va., for fall field training exercises.

“They’ll be sleeping in the field, learning casualty care, doing obstacle courses and situational training exercises like ambushes,” Howell said. “They will basically be doing war out in the woods, learning how to operate as a squad or a team leader, and what commands to call.”

Select members will compete against other collegiate programs along the East Coast in the Ranger Challenge held later in October at Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Va. (Liberty Army ROTC placed fourth out of 38 college programs from the brigade at the event last spring at Fort AP Hill in Bowling Green, Va.)

Cadets will take a written land navigation test followed by day and night orienteering exercises, basic rifle marksmanship, a grenade assault course, M16 disassembly and assembly competitions, and Army Physical Fitness Tests (APFTs).

“We go from pushing Humvees to basic shooting to physical fitness and see how we all work together as a team,” Howell said.

The squadron will also carry on its tradition of community service by assisting with a food drive this month. They will collect food and walk it in their ruck sacks from campus to the Park View Community Mission in downtown Lynchburg, almost 4 miles.

Liberty’s entire Eagle Battalion lines up atop the LU Monogram after completing the arduous run.
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