Leading from the front
ROTC students at the University of Missouri inspire others at an annual endurance race
Mizzou students Sydney Feltenstein and Kimberly Woods are preparing for a future of leadership in the U.S. Army while earning their degrees. In March, these two cadets of the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Missouri inspired their peers by completing a grueling 26.2-mile race while wearing full combat attire and carrying a 35-pound military backpack. At the Bataan Memorial Death March endurance race at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, both Feltenstein and Woods finished in the top five out of 36 female cadets in the “heavy duty” category.
“Accomplishing something like the Bataan Memorial Death March coincides with how I face challenges in my classes every day,” said Woods, a senior studying engineering who finished in second place. “I just remind myself that it’s about staying disciplined, diligent and showing younger cadets that they can do whatever they set their mind to.”
Feltenstein and Woods prepared months in advance in order to be mentally and physically ready for this challenging trek consisting of sand trails and a mountain known as Mineral Hill. The cadets began training with 35 pound rucksacks and tracked their progress alongside the group. The group also raised money for veterans by participating in the event.
“I participated in this race because of the encouragement I got from the older cadets,” said Feltenstein, a freshman studying biological sciences who finished third. “The whole reason we do this is to remember those who lost their lives in the actual march. Participating in Bataan motivated me to take on any challenges I can later in life.”
ROTC is a program in the College of Arts and Science where Mizzou students have a chance to become officers in the U.S. military as cadets and midshipmen from the Army, Air Force, Navy and the Marine Corps ROTC. Cadets and midshipmen can participate in several endurance races throughout the year to test their abilities before heading into real combat.
“The program is about leadership development and understanding yourself,” said Lieutenant Colonel Gary Kerr, a professor of military science and leadership at MU. “Our job as leaders in the military is to motivate others, especially in combat zones.”
There are approximately 290 schools in the U.S. that send ROTC cadets to the Bataan Memorial Death March each year. Running in harsh weather conditions and carrying heavy rucksacks for hours at a time helps develop key skills and leadership qualities in cadets.
“I’m really proud to tell others that I come from Mizzou at competitions,” Woods said. “We have a national reputation and our training allows our cadets to represent our university on a national stage.”