When it came time for Nebraska’s Isaiah Wiese to choose a college path, he selected one that had always stuck out to him.
“Military has been something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “When I was a senior in high school, I decided to choose something that had stayed constant my entire life, and that was military.”
Two years later, the sophomore political science major from O’Neill has found success as a member of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Army ROTC program. A leader in the program, Wiese recently guided a team of five Nebraska Army ROTC cadets to a top-ranking position in the Northern Warfare Challenge — an 18-mile ruck march up and around the bluffs surrounding LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
Nebraska Army ROTC sent two teams to the competition, with Wiese’s Alpha team finishing second out of 46 teams. Nebraska’s Bravo team earned seventh. Nebraska has been competing in the competition for four years and this is the first time the Huskers have made the podium. Wiese said the team effort, leadership and mentorship led to the team’s success.
The competition was no small feat. Competitors were tasked with one day of skills testing, which included an M4 shooting qualification course with popup targets, medical skills test with a cold weather casualty, fire building and knot tying. The following day consisted of the 18-mile march.
The competition exposed the teams to a series of unique challenges that only northern winter weather can pose.
“The cold is definitely something you have to plan for,” Wiese said. “Water freezing is a big problem we had last year, so this year we came up with a few ideas like adding electrolytes to our water and using hand warmers in our water bottle pouches. Another thing that’s very unique about this competition in terms of weather is you have things like ski poles that you’re working with. It also rained the week before the competition so there was a lot of ice, and putting chains on our boots was critical.”
Wiese was appointed team captain, meaning he was responsible for developing a training regimen. The team began training the second day of the spring semester. Through the process, Wiese relied on the expertise of seniors to inform his training decisions.
“It was really helpful to be team captain while we still had people with a lot of experience,” he said. “It was a team effort. With their experience, I feel like we were really well prepared, so when it was time, everybody knew exactly what to do. It was a well-oiled machine. It was a big deal to place this high, and we plan to do it again next year and continue the tradition of excellence.”
Wiese said the culture of excellence is strong in Nebraska Army ROTC, and it’s one of the things that sets Nebraska apart from other schools. Strong support for competition teams and advanced training methods have also been advantageous.
“If you want to be an outstanding cadet here, you have to put forth a lot of effort,” he said. “We have a culture where people want to be outstanding because otherwise, you’re in the minority. We have cadre who allow us to cater our training to the people who participate in competition teams, which makes tryouts a lot more competitive. The demand for competition teams is higher, so when you participate you learn more things and that leads to students wanting to learn even more. That leads to extra learning opportunities and really cool hands-on things that you typically wouldn’t get to experience in Army ROTC.”
Wiese gets to participate in a unique experience this summer as a result of the Northern Warfare Challenge success. He will go to Air Assault School this summer to earn his Air Assault Wings.
The military path has been a good decision for Wiese. Army ROTC has nurtured his competitive, analytical spirit and provided him with opportunities to learn and develop his skills as a leader. Post-graduation, he wants to serve a few years as an infantry officer before working in military intelligence.
“It’s a clear-cut career path, and it’s something that I can orient my goals toward,” Wiese said. “I’m a really hard worker when I have something to go for, and the Army does a great job of laying out if you do this and this, you put yourself in a good position. It has a lot of great benefits like career structure, discipline, physical activity and competition.”
Nebraska Army ROTC will next compete in the Ranger Buddy Competition on April 7.