Published: March 9, 2023

The terrain surrounding CU Boulder is prime for training the most physically fit. From the many Olympians that have trained in Boulder to the thousands of military officers that have chosen to begin their journeys at one of the Reserve Officer Training Corps units on campus, it’s safe to say Boulder provides a unique landscape for testing the mind and body.

Because of this one-of-a-kind training environment, 16 military units from across the country traveled to the CU Boulder campus March 4–5 to compete in the CU Boulder Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, or CUNROTC, annual Colorado Meet.

“Competition is a big part of development,” said Col. Robert Bodisch, commanding officer, CUNROTC. “To be on a team and be forced to thrive in a challenging environment…it forces you to work as a team, to not let your teammates down. Setting aside your pain, setting aside the weather, all to get across the finish line.”

The Colorado Meet is a series of military-style competitions that tests midshipmen’s abilities to think and act as a team while under immense pressure.

Putting the next generation of naval officers to the test

To kick off the weekend, CUNROTC hosted a robust opening ceremony for the event. During the ceremony, the participating midshipmen and active-duty personnel had the opportunity to hear from U.S. Marines Lt. Gen. Brian Cavanaugh, commanding general, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic; and Maj. Gen. William J. Bowers, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

“They need to be hungry to win. Because when you’re serving your country, you always need to have a winner’s mindset,” said Cavanaugh. “But mostly, I hope they get comradery out of this…that these young men and women meet people they never would have met before, and that they build long-lasting relationships. I think it will transcend to when they are serving out in the fleet, and when they are overseas, they will see people they met here today.”

The overarching goal of the Colorado Meet is to put the next generation of naval officers to the test while cultivating a sense of community among their peers, according to Bowers.

“I wanted to come here because, in my current capacity as commanding general of Marine Corps recruiting, I see how hard our Marines are working to get the best possible young men and women of character to become Marines,”Bowers said. “But all their efforts are for naught if we do not have the right officers leading them. Seeing what Col. Bodisch is doing here has assured me we are getting the right officer leaders for our Marines.”

The ultimate event of comradery

Leadership, teamwork, mental fortitude and physical strength are famously tested during the Colorado Meet in one of the hardest military physical fitness challenges in the nation—the Endurance Race.

“The Endurance Race is our pride and joy for CUNROTC and the Colorado Meet,” said Midshipman Second Class Jack Eddington, the lead organizer of the event. “Schools come to the Colorado Meet just to compete in the endurance race.”

The Endurance Race, also known as the E-Race, is an 8-mile weighted run with various obstacles—both physical and mental—scattered along the way. In teams of six, the midshipmen must navigate the first 3 miles on the CU Boulder campus before beginning their trek up Green Mountain. Enduring a 2,450-foot elevation gain, the midshipmen must carry packs of at least 40 pounds and, at times, must carry one another.

“It’s the ultimate event of comradery,” Eddington said. “At the end of the day, to get to the top of the mountain, you must work together as a team. You must finish as a team. The military is one massive team—one green team, one blue team—and when we come together to work, it just creates magic.”

The CUNROTC endurance team’s dedication to teamwork, community and mental fortitude is what brought them to victory, as the team took first place in the event.

“This experience taught me the importance of a strong, capable team and supporting one another through difficult experiences,” said Midshipman Third Class Tess Whittaker, a participant of the CUNROTC endurance team. “Additionally, throughout the race, it is crucial that one person steps up to lead us. Something I noticed was that it was never the same person on our team. Every one of us knew when to step up and knew when to let someone else push us forward.”

While the E-Race tested their mental fortitude when in physical distress, a drill competition was conducted to test the midshipmen’s discipline and ability to adhere to orders; a shooting competition was conducted to test their discipline and precision; and a knowledge competition was conducted to test their understanding of where the military was yesterday and where it is today.

An opportunity to engage with the Boulder community

The Colorado Meet, although famous for being one of the best training opportunities that midshipmen receive during the school year, is truly a community event at its core.

“We have made a significant effort to make this year’s Colorado Meet a community event,” Bodisch said. “This is the first time we have had an opening ceremony, which has been an opportunity to invite several members of the community.” 

Community leaders attending included Daryl Maeda, dean of Undergraduate Education at CU Boulder, and John Tayer,  president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber. Junior ROTC units from across the state volunteered to assist  midshipmen in the execution of each event, developing further relationships with the next generation of naval officers.

Also in attendance was the CU Graduate Woodwind Quintet, who played the National Anthem, the Marines Hymn and Anchors Away for the opening ceremony.

“This was an event of convergence between our unit and the community…our community should be proud of the unit here,” Bodisch said.

The event was the culmination of months of planning and training. And after all the hard work that was put in, the Colorado Meet was an all-around success, with CUNROTC coming out as the overall winner of the event. 

“An event of this scale, of this complexity, requires a lot of coordination to ensure success,”  Bodisch said. “There is a lot of negotiation and synchronization that must happen to be successful…skill sets these midshipmen will need as young officers and throughout their careers.”