Cadet Gage Harshman sat on his bed, clutching an empty Pedialyte bottle. A few hours before, his face had been covered in dirt, sweat and a look of sheer determination. Now, it wore only a look of disappointment.
"I'm not happy with third place," he said. "We were expecting a lot more. We trained hard enough that we were going to take first."
The senior criminal justice major trained 18 other students for Saturday's Ranger Challenge course. This is Harshman's fourth and final year participating in the event. For the last three years, WSU's Army ROTC has scored second place in the competition, he said.
Harshman is an MS4, which means he is in his last year in ROTC. Next year, he will be deployed and begin his life working for the Army. A cadet's future job, location and active duty placement are determined by a number of points they receive, based on factors such as GPA, extra-curriculars and work history.
"I got active duty," he said. "I put in that my number one job would be infantry, and for my number one place I put Germany. That's what I'm hoping for but we'll see what happens."
Harshman said he was a solid kid in high school . He had a 3.5 GPA and played three varsity sports at Heritage High School in his hometown of Vancouver. But he was not sure college would be the right fit for him. He only applied to WSU, but when he arrived, he felt like he was missing something. He said he spoke to the recruiter for the Army and Air Force and decided to join the Army.
"I felt like I needed something more and I found it in ROTC," he said. "I've enjoyed every second of it."
Since arriving at WSU, Harshman has participated in the Ranger Challenge. This was his first year completely leading his team.
Despite the team receiving third place, its leader did have some positive words. Harshman said during the last four years, his team has placed, and that says something about the WSU program — that above all, it is consistent.
Harshman said he loves the Ranger Challenge environment. He said it is not something easy, and it is not something everyone can do. He said working with his team has probably been the best experience he has had.
"There's a lot of good young talent on this team," he said. "If this is just the foundation, then I feel like I've done my job."