The Steel Battalion won first place at the 2nd Brigade Army ROTC Ranger Challenge and will go on to represent the brigade in the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition hosted by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in April 2023. (Photo by Kyle Crawford, U.S. Army Cadet Command)

ROTC prepares for Sandhurst Military Skills Competition


As a child, Christian Antry, ‘23, did not idolize athletes like other boys. Instead, his heroes were U.S. Army Generals like Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton.

“Their legendary feats during WWII tremendously inspired me,” Antry said. “In high school, I realized I wanted to have a career in the U.S. Army.”

Antry is a member of the Steel Battalion, an ROTC program composed of 11 Pennsylvania colleges and universities including Lehigh, which won first place out of 45 teams in the 2nd Freedom Brigade as part of the 2022 Ranger Challenge at Fort Dix Army Base in October. 

This qualified them to compete at the national level at the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition in April 2023. Their 2022 results also marked their third win in four years, as the team placed first in the Ranger Challenge in 2019 and 2020. 

Angelo Daddona, ‘25, is one of 11 students competing in the event. 

“Lehigh is one of 16 out of 273 National College Army ROTC Programs who earned spots to Sandhurst,” Daddona said. “It is a very prestigious event, and we earned our spot.” 

Lehigh University was one of the first three schools in the country to have an ROTC program, established in 1919.

According to Lehigh’s Student Affairs website, Lehigh’s ROTC program is a military science elective curriculum taught by Army staff, where students are able to cultivate leadership by learning the value of character, critical thinking, self-discipline and teamwork.

Lt. Col. Preston Jackson, professor of military science and leadership, said these are values cadets like Sandhurst co-captains Antry and Joseph Voitek, a senior at Moravian College, embody. He said the two are natural leaders who challenge their underclassmen teammates.

Antry said it is important to build trust with teammates to facilitate a consistent winning culture. He said the freshmen look up to their upperclassmen cadets and actively work to become better leaders themselves.

The Sandhurst event will host 15 international teams, 13 West Point teams and 4 Service Academies.

In order to prepare for the competition, Antry said the team trains for about 14 hours a week throughout the day and runs an average of 25 miles a week wearing their 35-pound rucksacks and gear.

“Our ultimate goal for the Sandhurst competition is to be the first college to win, or even be top three,” Daddona said. “It’s never been done before, and it’s a great goal to try and break. Going to Sandhurst is the best experience a cadet can have before becoming an officer.” 

Jackson said the Sandhurst team and overall Steel Battalion will spend much of the 2023 spring semester at the range. 

In order to succeed at the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition, Jackson said the team will have to train and qualify on grenade launching, carbine rifle shooting and pistol shooting.

The Sandhurst Team will be airlifted by a helicopter to Pennsylvania’s Fort Indiantown Gap to conduct a field training exercise, Antry said, which will incorporate various aspects of the competition, such as throwing hand grenades, water-born operations, marksmanship and a 20-mile ruck march with a 35-pound rucksack with gear.

Daddona said the team will also travel to Allentown and Easton National Guard Armories to access equipment and weapons.

Jackson attributes the continued success of the Steel Battalion program to students’ will to persist, a legacy of hard work and the Lehigh Valley mountains to keep them in pristine shape.

Antry said he is fortunate to share the captain role with Cadet Voitek.

“Our leadership is successful as we are able to effectively communicate, collaborate and coordinate,” Antry said. “That being said, what it means to lead this team is about representing the legacy of the mighty Lehigh Steel Battalion and inspiring the future of our Battalion.”

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