ROTC obstacle training course under construction on SDSU campus

Couple funds project in honor of family’s service to U.S. military

Neither rain nor mud could stop the 424th Engineer Company of Rutland, Vermont, from accomplishing its mission in Brookings in June. The 108 soldiers of the Vermont Army Reserve Unit were in Brookings to construct an ROTC obstacle training course on the campus of South Dakota State University.

Gene and JoAnn Goodale of Pekin, Ill., visit with military personnel at the construction site of the Goodale-Renz ROTC Confidence Obstacle Course June 14. Pictured from left to right are: 2nd Lt. Daniel Katz of Vermont, Lt. Col. Kory L. Knight of Brookings, 1st Lt. Matthew Huff of Vermont, Gene and JoAnn Goodale, and Seg. 1st Class Brad Jorgenson of the South Dakota National Guard. The course is under construction north and east of the Performing Arts Center on campus. The Goodales, both graduates of South Dakota State University, are funding the ROTC course in honor of their family’s U.S. military service.

“Through all the muck and more, my soldiers have never stopped working on this,” says 1st Lt. Matthew Huff, commander of the 424th Engineer Company. “We had to pump water out of the holes in order to be able to pour a base to stabilize a subterranean area to support poles.”

Construction of the obstacle course is a joint training exercise and building project of the 424th Engineer Company of Vermont and the 153rd Engineer Battalion of Huron. The South Dakota Army National Guard members will complete the project; they have five obstacle stations to complete, says Lt. Col. Kory L. Knight, a professor of military science at SDSU.

The Goodale-Renz ROTC Confidence Obstacle Course is being built north and east of the Performing Arts Center on campus. The course will have a rappel tower, a small incline wall, and ten ranger challenge stations that will train ROTC cadets for military service and career as officers in various branches of the military.

The course is being funded by private donations from alumni Gene and JoAnn Goodale of Pekin, Illinois, in honor of their family’s commitment and service to the U.S. military. Gene was active in Air Force ROTC as an SDSU student from 1953-57 and attained the rank of captain during his service as a communications officer. Nearly thirty years later, Gene and JoAnn’s daughter Diane met her future husband, Evan Renz, in the Armory as enrolled Army ROTC students at SDSU. Diane was commissioned a Medical Service Corps officer in 1983. Evan is a colonel who continues to serve on active duty as director of the Burn Center at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Gene and JoAnn’s son Sergeant Michael Goodale served in the U.S. Army from 1990-94; he was an Army ranger in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, also known as Black Hawk Down.

The course is named in honor of the Goodales’ generosity. A dedication is being planned for Sept. 30.

“Our hope is that the Confidence Obstacle Course will strengthen SDSU’s ROTC program and encourage future young men and women to serve their country,” says Gene Goodale.

Gene and JoAnn traveled to Brookings June 14 to meet Huff and his soldiers and to tour the construction site. Huff says he was pleased to escort the couple. “We like the idea of contributing something. This course is a longstanding project that will contribute to training opportunities long-term and will also benefit the civilian military.”

The project provided real-world training for Huff and his soldiers. “We’re practicing what we do,” he says. “We’re a vertical engineer company. We build things for the Army.”

Soldiers from the 424th Engineer Company of Rutland, Vermont, didn’t let rain and mud stop them from accomplishing their mission while on the SDSU campus in June. The Vermont Army Reservists were on campus to start construction of the Goodale-Renz ROTC Confidence Obstacle Course, which is being funded by SDSU alumni Gene and JoAnn Goodale of Pekin, Illinois.

While in Brookings, the Vermont soldiers lived and dined on the SDSU campus. “SDSU has been awesome and the ROTC program has been hospitable,” says Huff. “Some of my soldiers have even enjoyed the world’s best ice cream here.”

From Brookings, the Vermont unit traveled to western South Dakota to participate in an annual large-scale military training exercise called Operation Golden Coyote. Thousands of military personnel from nationwide and other countries participate in Operation Golden Coyote, which takes place across thousands of square miles around Rapid City.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to train and practice doing what we would do if we mobilized to . . .  defend the United States,” Huff says. “It increases the width, depth, and overall skill capacity of what we’re called to do.”

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