It took teamwork, communication, and a lot of grit to get through the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ Platoon Tactical Challenge, an all-day, corps-wide competition held last Saturday.  

The Platoon Tactical Challenge is an annual training exercise for the corps. At each of a half-dozen stations, a platoon of 30 cadets completes a task meant to challenge the group both mentally and physically. The platoon that is the best led, stays organized, and can follow complex instructions will be the clear winner. 

Cadets at the top of a wall reach out to pull a cadet over the top.
Cadets formed human ladders to move each member of their platoon up a 30-foot wall made slippery with dish soap. Once at the top, cadets reached down to pull others over the top.

Prior to the event all the cadets are given instructions on what skills to practice — such as being able to cross a rope bridge, navigate, or quickly build a raft — and they spent two months honing those skills without knowing what the actual tasks or environmental conditions would be. They prepare for anything. 

“We held weekly training sessions to go over technical requirements for the event starting as early as the second week of school,” said cadet and platoon leader Paul Huemme, a senior in Naval ROTC majoring in building construction. “We created a strengths and weaknesses chart and figured out where everyone could contribute most effectively.”

Training created teamwork, which was critical to success, Huemme said. “As the platoon leader, finding the platoon's strengths and weaknesses, designating clear roles during training, and leading by example during the execution were three of the biggest takeaways.”

This year, through a partnership with Giles County Parks and Recreation, the competition was held at Glen Lyn Park and featured mud and water obstacles.

A cadet uses a rope to pull herself up a muddy river bank while other cadets wait in the water below.
After wading through the thigh-deep water of the New River, cadets used a rope to climb up a steep and muddy bank.