By Stephen Koenigsfeld, Iowastatedaily
The Cyclones defeated the Hawkeyes on Friday, but the points weren’t being tallied by touchdowns and field goals.
The Army ROTC programs from Iowa State and the University of Iowa competed in a food donation version of the Cy-Hawk rivalry, one that was less heated than the one students saw Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
Each year, members of the two ROTC programs take the game ball from one stadium and run it to the host stadium, stopping in towns along the way to talk, eat and catch their breath.
“It’s an overall moral boost for all of our cadets,” said Cadet Battalion Commander Steven Brown. “It’s one of those team building events that we do. And to be part of it … it makes you feel like you’re a part of the team. And that’s what we hit on here.”
The Iowa Troop Pantry was the donation group for the annual event, in its 28th year. Items such as canned goods, baby wipes, foot powder, toothbrushes and drink packets were donated to a unit located in a remote area of Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Richard Smith, of the U.S. Army, said he knows just how much the little things, such as foot powder and toothbrushes, can impact a soldier’s day in a big way.
“Having been deployed a couple times in Afghanistan, you almost can’t put into words how important it is to get stuff from home,” Smith said.
Not having to go out and buy those little things makes a soldier’s life just a little easier, Smith said. And being a part of something bigger than just an ROTC program in Iowa makes donation opportunities like the game ball run more enjoyable.
The main mission is to show cadets in the program that their job is to take care of soldiers who are overseas, Brown said. And by participating in events, such as the game ball run, is another way to do just that.
Members of both programs put the Cy-Hawk rivalry aside on Friday to promote camaraderie among themselves.
Second Lt. William Gentzsch of the U of I Army ROTC said it’s always nice to have the rivalry between schools, but everyone is eyeing to be on the same team.
“We’re all training to be in the military,” Gentzsch said. “If you choose to be allegiant to your one school, that’s fine. But we’re all training to become Army officer leaders.”
Tama, Iowa, was the halfway meeting point for the two programs. And after a picnic lunch, both programs compared their donations. The winner, for the third consecutive year, was Iowa State.
“At the end of this whole experience … the most important thing they have to learn is taking care of soldiers,” Smith said. “And it’s always nice to beat Iowa.”
The mission of taking care of troops overseas has run through the minds and hearts of the members of the ISU Army ROTC program time and time again.
“It’s about contributing to the big picture,” Brown said. “Since we begin as freshmen, we never stop supporting our troops, this program or Iowa State University.”