Early in 2006, sophomore Accounting Management major Paul Shirk met with one of his business faculty members, Captain Kirk Mensch, to discuss his potential need to transfer. Maranatha did not offer an Army ROTC program, and Shirk had researched finishing his undergraduate education at UW-Madison for the sake of enrolling in such a program. Mensch suggested a different idea: forming a satellite program at Maranatha through the Badger Battalion that met at UW-Madison.
For the program to be successful, the Badger Battalion would have to agree to accept, fund, and support a program at a comparatively tiny school nearly an hour away. Maranatha in return would have to accept the program and begin offering academic credit for ROTC classes and, of course, recruit quality cadets.
After the affiliate paperwork was signed and the curriculum was put in place, Shirk became the first Maranatha cadet to contract into the new program on June 2, 2006. The Charlie Company would face challenges soon, though. Maranatha did not have any full-time on-campus instructors, so while cadets worked out their physical training on campus, they had to make early-morning trips to UW-Whitewater (Bravo Company) every week for their labs.
In the fall of 2007, Captain Derrek Schultheiss became full-time Assistant Professor of Military Science at Maranatha, and Shirk became the Detachment Commander. Maranatha gave the program a permanent building on campus; and once instructors were qualified through the Leadership Development and Assessment Course, Charlie Company began running a truly self-contained program. Under Schultheiss’ direction, this core group of leaders molded Charlie Company for the future classes of cadets.
When Schultheiss was promoted to Major and deployed to Iraq, Charlie Company cadets enjoyed the technical and tactical expertise and experience of Major Scott Nos and Sergeant First Class Richard Carlson. Carlson was the first non-commissioned Officer to assist full-time at Maranatha, and helped the cadets achieve their first “First Place” Ranger Challenge victory in 2009.
The program has been blessed to have additional full time cadre members develop the program over the years. SFC Benintende has left a lasting legacy on the university with his larger-than-life personality and dedication to the ROTC and Athletic departments. He brought a wealth of knowledge to the program, along with a passion to teach and mentor the Army’s future leaders. He was heavily involved in the ROTC program, as well as Maranatha’s football program. Captain Jon Degreeff is the current Assistant Professor of Military Science, and brings a high level of expertise, experience, and intellect to the program. He has already helped guide the 2016 and 2017 Ranger Challenge team to two more first place victories.
Becoming “Rock Solid”
“Maranatha falls under the University of Wisconsin-Madison ROTC program,” says DeGreeff. “It is composed of four total universities: MBU is the third company, which is alphabetically labelled as ‘C Company,’ or ‘Charlie Company.’”
One of the first cadets of Charlie Company created its theme, “Rock Solid,” for itself. “This slogan, which is yelled, or ‘sounded off,’ at the beginning and end of each formation, influences the ROTC culture to be ‘rock solid’ in its morals and conduct at all times,” explains DeGreeff.
“I have personally learned dedication, integrity, and respect through the ROTC program,” says current Biblical Studies major PJ Tanglao. “It takes dedication to juggle classes with our military training, and I’d be lying if I said it was easy. It takes integrity to get your responsibilities done on time and to do the right thing when no one is watching. I’ve learned respect for those who go through this experience beside me, respect for those above me investing in me, and respect for those who’ve taken this commitment to serve before us.”
In November 2017, the Charlie Company received its sixth consecutive victory at the Ranger Challenge competition at Fort McCoy, bringing Maranatha’s overall total to eight first-place victories and one second-place victory. The color guard has made numerous appearances at special events, including an appearance at the swearing-in ceremony for State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman and one for State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly.
Maranatha alum Elijah Walters (’14) said of his time in the ROTC, “The Army will teach you everything you need to know about your assigned job. What makes MBU different is living in a Christ-centered environment where you can see all sorts of people working for God’s glory in a variety of professions. MBU taught me to pursue excellence in order to make God look good.” Walters was the first MBU cadet branched as an engineer, a field normally reserved for engineering majors; and he received a saber upon graduation for being the top cadet in the battalion.
The year 2017 saw the end of an era. After 11 years of dedicated service to MBU’s ROTC program and the Badger Battalion, LTC Derrek Schultheiss had to bid farewell to his beloved Charlie Company as he moved on to serve as the Commander of the 132nd Brigade Support Battalion for the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team while simultaneously serving as a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s G4 logistics team in Madison, WI. His dedication and loyalty to the men and women of Charlie Company has helped build an organization that will remain “Rock Solid” for generations of cadets to come.