Here's a report from the first GORUCK Challenge I ever did. Hope you take something away from it. Feel free to comment.
Monday, September 30, 2013
GORUCK Challenge class 792
This past weekend, I completed my first GORUCK Challenge. If you don't know what that is, I'll try and sum it up for you. Take a backpack (aka Ruck), add six bricks to it. Show up at a predetermined location at 1 am. Take about 25 other people that you've never met before, throw in one or two combat experienced military Special Forces operators (your Cadre), and prepare for the unknown for the next 8-10 hours and 15-20 miles (that's a minimum. Under promise, over deliver.)
In this case, the city was St, Louis, MO. The start point was the Art Museum at Forest Park. The Cadre were Cadre Bert and Cadre Brad. The details, well, we'll leave those out. Every challenge is different, and to understand it, you need to experience it. I'll tell you we bear crawled, flutter kicked, duck walked, did push ups, carried logs, chairs, each other, and more weight than you even want to think about. We got hot, wet, tired, and sore. We went 17-19 miles over 12 hours. But we started with 25 people and we ended with 25 people. We started as individuals and finished as a team.
The Welcome Party...doesn't always make you feel welcome!
It was definitely one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was also one of the most satisfying. If you've ever wanted to know what it is like to put your trust and faith into other people, this is for you. If you've ever wanted to know what a true sense of camaraderie is, this is for you. If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to depend on other people, and have those people depend on you to be successful, this is for you.
It was an honor and a privilege to spend a few hours with the other members of Class 792 and Cadre Bert and Brad. There were lessons taught that I will take with me throughout my life, and try to pass them on to the people I train and coach. Some of those lessons include:
"It could always be worse". Your feet are sore, and you have blisters? At least you have shoes. You're doing more push ups, bear crawls and flutter kicks than you ever thought possible? At least its not raining or snowing. You're carrying your ruck, someone else's ruck because they're injured, you have the team weight and it hurts to move, but you still have miles to go? At least you're not getting shot at. It can always be worse.
"Winning the hearts and minds of others." That's our job. As Cadre Bert explained, Special Forces are nothing more than the Peace Corps with guns. Their mission is not to kill people. It's to win hearts and minds. That's what we should all aspire to in our daily lives. Not win by brute force, but by winning over hearts and minds. At one point during the challenge, we noticed a person down in a grocery store parking lot. Cadre Bert went to them, stayed with them until paramedics arrived, and left the class to go to the hospital with this elderly person who lived alone and had a birthday the next day. I promise you, Cadre Bert won over hearts and minds. As we're walking through the streets, carrying a teammate in a discarded chair that Cadre Brad decided was necessary to complete our mission, being led by an American Flag and we see a man get out of his car and stand with his hat over his heart as we pass by, that's winning hearts and minds.
"Embrace the Suck." Things aren't always easy. There are times when you have to dig deep and go to a dark place to finish what you started. Vince Lombardi said it this way, “The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That's real glory. That's the essence of it.” Let me tell you, we got knocked to our knees. But finishing in the face of challenge and adversity. Finishing as a team. That was the real glory.
If there are no natural bodies of water, the cadre always improvise.
"If you ever think, 'this isn't so bad', you're doing something wrong. Because I promise you one of your teammates is having the hardest time of their life. You should be taking on more to help them." Cadre Bert said this early on. It's not about doing your "fair share". It's about doing whatever is necessary to complete the mission. Stronger people take on more weight. That's life. Deal with it. To quote my Captain with the Mobile County Sheriff's Office, Bruce Lee, "Life isn't fair. A fair's where you go to eat cotton candy and ride the tilt-a whirl." Work to your abilities, whatever they may be. The important thing is completing the mission.
People have asked "Was the GORUCK Challenge fun?" My answer "Hell no!" Something like this can never be described as fun. It is however one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and well worth it. I'm proud to be GORUCK Tough.
I'll finish with something Cadre Bert said at the start. "Marathons, lifting weights, triathlons, those all make people better. We're here to make better people." Thank You Cadre. I get it.
The patch. Always earned, never sold!