Sun Devil Battalion wins regional Ranger Challenge Competition, places 5th overall

December 2, 2021

This fall, Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Battalion participated in the Ranger Challenge Competition, a two-round varsity sport where Army ROTC teams from across the country compete in events that test mental and physical toughness. The team placed first in the regional round and fifth in the overall competition.

“I am extremely proud of the way the team came together and executed. From the beginning this team had a mindset that they would go to this event and win, and they went out and did it,” said Capt. Tyler Alavekios, an assistant professor in the Department of Military Sciences. “Nearly all the members had never competed before, so no one really knew what to expect from the event. The win validated the focus and effort our team has put into not only training the team but into how we train cadets.” The Sun Devil Ranger Challenge team poses with the battalion guidon after being named winners of the regional Ranger Challenge Competition. Photo courtesy of ASU Department of Military Sciences Download Full Image

The challenges the cadets participated in included basic rifle marksmanship, an Army physical fitness test, a written navigation test, day and night orienteering and a grenade assault course. Each team that participates is awarded points based on how well they perform in each event. 

The first round of the Ranger Challenge took place at Fort Bliss in Texas from Oct. 22–23. The Sun Devil Battalion was one of eight teams competing from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In this round, the Sun Devil Battalion placed first and was one of two teams from the region to move on to the second and final round. This was the first regional competition win for the team since 2009.

The final round was held at Camp Gruber in Oklahoma from Nov. 5–7. There, the Sun Devil Battalion placed fifth among 10 teams from Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. 

The Sun Devil Battalion’s Ranger Challenge team was made up of seven students from ASU and four from Grand Canyon University.

“In less than a week, the team quickly developed trust, confidence and cohesion to excel during their competition during physical and marksmanship events,” said Lt. Col. Erich Schneider, a professor in the Department of Military Sciences for ASU and GCU Army ROTC. 

Jack Frus, a third-year student double-majoring in civic and economic thought and leadership, and political science, with minors in history and military leadership, was part of the Sun Devil Battalion’s Ranger Challenge team and has previously participated in the Ranger Challenge. 

Jack Frus (left) and Dane McCall hold the Task Force Jicarilla Ranger Challenge Competition trophy. Photo courtesy ASU Department of Military Sciences

He said this year's competition was more than just a physical and mental challenge for him.

“Participating in the Ranger Challenge allowed me more time to hone in on my skills as a soldier and put them to the test. It also allowed me to build better camaraderie and trust with my fellow cadets,” Frus said. “My favorite part of the Ranger Challenge was the shared experience between myself and the other cadets in the challenge. We built strong bonds through intense training and rigorous competitions. In stressful situations, trusting one another is the key to success when under extreme pressure.”

Frus, who hopes to serve in the Army Special Forces and eventually hold a leadership position within the government, said participating in the Ranger Challenge has helped prepare him for his future.

“The Ranger Challenge also gave me a better understanding of basic soldiering skills that will aid me in my career,” he said. “I would recommend the Ranger Challenge to anyone who wants to serve in a combat-arms role in the Army, or even for anyone who wants to challenge themselves in a new way.”

The goals of the Ranger Challenge center on developing leaders while fostering teamwork, a sentiment that is similarly at the heart of ASU’s Army ROTC program.

“By having cadets participate in the Ranger Challenge, we increase our ability to generate quality leaders of character for our university, community, state and nation,” Schneider said. “I am confident that our cadets built trust and confidence in one another that will serve as the foundation for many more competitive teams to come in the future of the Sun Devil Battalion.” 

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

ASU's Allen Coral Atlas drives ocean sustainability

Officials from 14 countries are working on 48 new marine planning projects using the atlas maps as their foundational dataset

December 2, 2021

The ocean covers 71% of our planet's surface. And one particular underwater ecosystem provides a lifeline for life below water and life on land — coral reefs. 

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson stressed the urgency of climate action, saying, "There's no more debate about are we heading towards 2.7 or 3 (degrees) or way over. ... What it's about now is, what are we doing about it? What are the solutions?” Serene nature photo depicting a rocky but green shoreline and blue sea. Download Full Image

Discussions at COP26 highlighted the importance of coral reef management and demonstrated a clear need for more commitment from policy and decision-makers. Arizona State University sustainability experts agree.

“Scaling up reef management is critical for the communities that rely on healthy ocean ecosystems,” said Greg Asner, managing director of the Allen Coral Atlas and director of ASU’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science. “Coral reefs provide coastal communities with food, income from tourism and fishing, protection from waves, and are integral to many coastal traditions and cultures.”

More than 500 million people depend on coral reefs worldwide as a source of food, wave barriers, a core part of coastal traditions and an economic resource. About 25% of marine species are supported by coral reefs. However, climate change and human activity threaten the world’s reefs. Marine heat waves can lead to coral-bleaching events, leaving the coral stressed and more prone to mortality, just one of many symptoms caused by climate change.

To strengthen protection and adapt to a rapidly changing environment, the world is in need of actionable data. The Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science is meeting this need with the Allen Coral Atlas, a program mapping and monitoring the world’s coral reefs in partnership with Planet, University of Queensland, Coral Reef Alliance, National Geographic Society and Vulcan. Key features on the atlas include worldwide coral-bleaching monitoring, global habitat maps and a marine-protected-area data layer, among other products. The atlas was created to support coral reef conservation efforts and improve the capacity of teams around the world to meet their reef management goals. 

COP26 also demonstrated that policymakers must place a bigger emphasis on using nature-based solutions to protect and provide for their populations. Governments are already using the atlas to conduct countrywide analyses, identify region-by-region statistics, guide marine spatial planning efforts, enact countrywide marine action plans, track progress toward sustainability goals and more.

Officials from 14 countries are collaborating with Allen Coral Atlas team members, working on 48 new marine planning projects using the atlas maps as their foundational dataset. And this number is growing.

“The need for data is a concern for all of us," said Andi Rusandi, director of conservation and marine biodiversity for the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries in Indonesia. "It doesn’t only matter for the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. We are all integrated in this effort.”

COP26 illustrated that countries have an opportunity to collaborate and implement necessary steps in fighting climate change. As a global partnership, the Allen Coral Atlas provides motivated governments with a resource to conserve our world’s coral reefs and support the communities that rely on them.

Makenna Flynn

Communications Specialist, Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science