2014 Sandhurst Competition – Trials and Triumphs at USMA

By 26685 NCdt (II) Graham Mater

Over the past three months, the RMC Sandhurst Team has dedicated hundreds of hours in order to prepare for the Sandhurst Competition, an international military skills challenge that is held annually at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. The aim of our training is to provide us with the skills necessary to perform under pressure and adapt in challenging environments. The nature of this competition demands that we prepare for the unknown. Although the competition assesses the mastery of certain military skills, the organizers continuously include unknown elements in order to test the leadership and cohesion of each team. This year’s competition would prove as the the ultimate test for the 2014 RMC Sandhurst Team.

On april 6th, the RMC Sandhurst Team travelled to the United States Military Academy in order to spend several days preparing for the competition, which took place on the 11th and 12th of April. After liaising with our host company, I-4, the team spent some time getting to know the USMA campus. During a welcome brief presented by West Point’s Department of Military Instruction, the priorities of the competition were made very clear to us. Leader development was the primary goal, followed by the showcasing of military skills and excellence, the building of relationships, and lastly, winning. These tenets resonated throughout our time at West Point. We had the opportunity to interact with cadets and staff from Britain, Australia, Chile, Mexico, Germany, China, Nigeria, and all of the American service academies. In all, 58 teams competed in the competition, and the professionalism and competitive spirit of each team was apparent in this auspicious environment.

The days leading up to the competition gave us the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the American equipment that we would be using, and also to train on the world-class facilities available at the USMA campus. We zeroed our rifles, spent time on the pistol range, and perfected our drills and procedures. Everything was coming together, but then two days before the competition, during training on the obstacle course, 26339 OCdt (III) Lizée landed awkwardly after jumping off an obstacle and sprained his ankle. When he landed, we all heard an audible “pop”, and after assessment from a medical team it was clear that he would not be able to run the competition. OCdt Lizée was our team captain, and with him out of the running, the second-in-command, 26099 OCdt (III) Otis would step up to lead the team, and we would have to sub-in one of our spares to round out the squad. Clearly, losing our team captain to injury was a major setback, but not one that we were unprepared for. During our training, we routinely mixed up the roles of each team member in order to become more adaptable. We had confidence in our training and our leadership, and knew we still had the potential to win the competition.

We awoke early on the day of the competition, and after breakfast and a final inspection of our kit, we were ready on the starting line. Before we stepped off, the team was greeted by friends, family, teammates, and staff, including our Commandant, BGen Meinzinger, the Director of Cadets, LCol Lemyre, the College Chief Warrant Officer, CPO1 Davidson, and our Sergeant-Major, MWO Rideout. Knowing that our chain of command and our friends and families were there to support us made it so much more meaningful and pushed us even harder to perform at our best. In the ensuing 32 hours of competition, Team Canada moved through 13 different stands and covered over a marathon’s distance on foot, in full kit with rucksacks, and represented Canada through hardship and adversity. Upon stepping off, one member of our team had already made history. 25928 OCdt (IV) Jarvis became the only cadet in the history of the RMC Sandhurst Team to run the competition in all four of his years at RMC. Various factors, including the demands of college life, injuries, and the rigours of training, have prevented other cadets from accomplishing this feat, but OCdt Jarvis’ steadfast determination and devotion to the team have been integral throughout his time at RMC, and we are very proud of his accomplishment.

On several of the stands, the Canadians were the team to beat. Team Canada employed the shooting skills they had developed at the CFB Kingston range and through training with the Canadian Special Operations Regiment at CFB Petawawa, and posted the overall best score on the rifle range. On the rope bridge, the 9 members of Team Canada forded the gap in three minutes and fifty seven seconds, which was three seconds faster than the organizer’s predicted best-possible time. On the land navigation portion of the competition, members of the RMC Sandhurst Team raced through the mountainous terrain of the West Point training area and achieved the third-highest score of the day. On the second day of the competition, after a night spent outside in the field, Team Canada kept setting benchmarks. On the 10-foot Ranger Wall and the weapons assembly under CBRN conditions, our team set the fastest time, receiving perfect scores on both stands. Team Canada also attained the “Gold” standard on our overall course time, the bivouac stand, which consisted of a timed “bug-out”, and the indoor pistol range.

By the end of the competition, all of the teams were tired, wet, dirty, and glad to be across the finish line. Once all of the points had been calculated, Team Canada sat in the rankings as the 3rd international team and the 5th team overall, sitting behind United states Corps of Cadets H-3, the People’s Liberation Army University of Science and Technology, Texas A&M, and the victors, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Blue. Despite our successes, various mistakes throughout the competition compounded to cost us the crucial points that it would have taken to win. Our team trains to win, but despite losing our team captain two days before the competition, we still managed to post a world-class result and are proud of our accomplishments. We know that our training is working and we have confidence in our skills, and representing RMC and Canada at this international competition has made us even more grateful for the support we have received from the College, the RMC Foundation, and from our peers.

Being involved in the 2014 Sandhurst Competition was a great experience. It allowed us to test our skills, push ourselves, connect and build relationships with leaders from other militaries, and represent Canada and RMC abroad. The RMC Sandhurst Team is committed to excellence, and with the support from the College and the RMC Foundation, we will take the lessons we have learned during the 2014 Sandhurst Competition and apply them in our training to continue the legacy of excellence that our team has demonstrated over the last 17 years.