While most of Michigan’s student body was still sleeping on a rainy Wednesday morning, members of the Michigan Army ROTC program unloaded from their vans and filed into the Indoor Track Building. As they jogged around the track to warm up, the Michigan women’s track team trickled in and reported to the locker room.
Members of the ROTC program are training to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge — an award given by the German Army that is one of the few foreign-army awards that can be worn on the U.S. Army dress uniform. To earn this award, cadets must meet standards in high jump, long jump, shot put, sprints, a 5,000-meter run, first aid, pistol shooting and a road march. Each year, Michigan sends 10 members of its ROTC program to the competition, which is held at Indiana’s indoor track, where they get to meet cadets from around the Big Ten and Notre Dame.
The award has three levels, depending on which standards are met — gold, silver and bronze. Last year, juniors Dan Sutton and Caroline Holdren went to Indiana and came away with the silver badge.
“In the Army, we are only tested on push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run,” Sutton said. “It was fun to change it up and do some track-and-field events.”
Sutton and Holdren are now serving as coaches for the cadets heading to Indiana in February.
“It’s more relaxing (as a coach), but at the same time we want to come out with a good outcome and show that our training is going to help them in the competition,” Holdren said.
This year, for the first time, the indoor track was opened up for the ROTC program. This allowed them to use the long-jump and high-jump pit as well as the shot-put cage. In addition to using the facility, Michigan senior jumper Sara Nitz volunteered to help teach the cadets how to high jump, which is one of the more technically difficult events.
“It was the first time I had to put in my own little high-jump mini-camp,” Nitz said. “I hope they got something out of it.”
Nitz spent 20 minutes each with a number of groups that spent an hour rotating between field events. She spent her limited time with the cadets by setting up their approaches and teaching them the basic form used to get over the bar.
“In the past we’ve never really had anybody to help out,” Holdren said. “It’s definitely a good experience because a lot of the times, we’ll have people teaching the events that don’t know how to teach them.”
One of the cadets trying to earn the badge is sophomore Nick Cromell, who studied at Indiana over the summer. Using the high-jump knowledge he acquired from Nitz, Cromell is excited to go back to Bloomington and compete at its indoor track.
“Having someone who actually knows what they’re doing is obviously really helpful,” Cromell said. “If people are willing to come out and help you, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?”