University of Louisville sophomore Andrea Shaw, Jeffersonville In., and senior Samuel Prescott, Florence, Ky., participate in the ropes course in Fort Knox during MTVU’s ROTC challenge on June 13, 2013. “I’m majoring in chemical engineering,” Prescott said. “I have good agility, am a good climber, and have intelligence and luck.” Photo by Peyton Hobson.

By Crystal Allen
Leader’s Training Course

Army ROTC will be in the national spotlight when mtvU airs “ROTC Challenge” this fall.

The Leader’s Training Course hosted an mtvU crew last week, which filmed students from universities in the southern region of the United States competing against each another in an array of physical events. The students represented the University of Louisville, Vanderbilt University and Texas A&M University.

Lt. Col. Sheryl Phillips, an Army marketing representative, was at Fort Knox working alongside mtvU while filming. The program, she said, will enhance awareness of the Army, ROTC and the opportunities and options college students have to obtain an education and pursue service in the Army.

MTV is one of the Army’s recruiting and advertising partners, and the show will put the Army brand in front of its target audience in a different fashion because MTV is producing it, Phillips said.

mtvU is MTV’s university channel, which showcases college students around the nation and is primarily viewed online.

MTV earlier this year proposed the idea for the “ROTC Challenge” to U.S. Army Cadet Command, officials liked it and it was approved.

Louisville was chosen to compete because of its proximity to Fort Knox. MTV wanted Texas A&M to participate, and Vanderbilt was selected because it’s in a region close to the other universities.

Teams are separated by university, with two members being ROTC Cadets and one a student not associated with the military. MTV cast the civilian students, and each ROTC program nominated the Cadets.

However, those Cadets still faced the same application process as the civilian students, Phillips said.

“ROTC Challenge” is an opportunity to display college students on a national level as they compete in an intense fitness competition, mtvU spokesman Jake Urbanski said. The show provides an experience to each student that showcases their talents and achievements, he said.

Andrew Steen just completed his first year in ROTC at Vanderbilt. He said he was fortunate to earn a spot.

“I was very proud that they thought I would be good for this,” Steen said.

During the competition, each team goes through a series of challenges, many of them the same most ROTC Cadets face while participating in the Leader’s Training Course each summer at Fort Knox. The challenges – rappelling, high ropes and an obstacle course, for instance – test their physical and mental ability.

“ROTC Challenge” was filmed over four days, with students competing in one or two challenges per day. The winner, to be revealed when the program airs in September, will receive either a vacation to Los Angeles or cash.

John Journey, a Cadet from Louisville, has been involved with ROTC for three years. His dad was in the military and retired from Fort Knox.

“I think it’s going to show what Cadet Command and ROTC is all about,” he said.

The teams didn’t know what the challenges were until they arrived at the respective competition locations.

“There’s a lot of mystery involved,” Steen said. “There’s not much time to prepare and plan for everything.”

All the students were physically prepared for the challenges, Phillips said. She couldn’t tell the difference between the Cadets and the civilian students.

“I’m just really impressed,” Phillips said during the competition, “They’ve been doing well with everything.”

Alysa Dutkowsky, a civilian student from Texas A&M, said she felt physically prepared because she previously participated in CrossFit. Advice from the Cadets on her team helped, too.

Their experience in tasks such as tying a proper knot proved beneficial at events like the Castaway Challenge, Dutkowsky said.

Each team said the physical aspect of the show didn’t matter as much as teamwork.

“The winning team will definitely have worked together,” Dutkowsky said before the competition was over.

While it took a lot of effort from the team members, it also took a lot of work for the mtvU production crew. Some 20 people – producers, marketers, shooters and editors – will craft and piece the footage together.

“I’ve never really done anything like this before,” Steen said. “It’s definitely going to be fun to see myself on TV, on a show and it’s also kind of cool to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into making shows.”

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