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      ROTC teaches winter survival

      While most college students are hitting the books, a group of about 50 students are not only doing that, but also working to make the grade by surviving outside in an Upper Peninsula winter.

      Sophomore nursing student Ashley Collier lives to push herself to new limits. She says there's not much that can compare to the drive she gets as an ROTC student.

      "Not having a lot of girls to compete against, I'm making myself step up to the guys' standards," said Collier.

      The competition serves as a bigger purpose, it's one step closer to her goal of becoming an active duty Army nurse. It's a special calling, joining the Reserve Officer Trainer Corps for the United States Armed Forces, while pursuing a college degree.

      The course requires almost daily training and not always in ideal conditions.

      "The cold and snow, it slows you down; you're motivated though. You keep pushing forward," said junior Ben Rodenberg.

      It's something young people feel passionately about, and in recent years, it's becoming more popular.

      "Our numbers have jumped quite significantly in the past five years of the program," said Captain Benjamin Hormann, NMU ROTC.

      Almost 40 incoming freshmen have joined the program this year. It'll take brains and brawn to complete it successfully. It's rigorous, but leaders say the Upper Peninsula is one of the best places to prepare them for their future.

      "This is a good place to do training," Hormann added. "Other schools don't have the facilities close by that we do; all the time we're out in the woods, trail, lake."

      The Winter Survival Challenge stresses teamwork but also forces the cadets to put to use very real survival strategies. In one challenge, they've constructed snow shelters to sleep in.

      In total, the Wildcat Battalion has commissioned well over 300 Army Second Lieutenants.