I’m feeling compelled to write this, not by the pax or the other F3GRHeavy alums, but by this annoying little voice inside my head that just cannot seem to stop talking about the experience that was the Heavy. That voice is not going to shut up, I realize that now, and I’m starting to realize I don’t want it to shut up, because it keeps reminding me of that moment during the suckfest that was the Heavy when it all “clicked,” and I finally realized what “It’s Not About You,” really means. This AAR is not to shut that voice up, it is my effort to implant that annoying little bugger in anyone and everyone that will listen. So, you’ve been warned, read at your own risk.
I am not military. I am not a police officer, fireman, or EMS worker. I’m not even a D-1 has been. I’m Hee-Haw, a 35 year old Attorney with a wife and 2 kids who recently rediscovered that he had some athletic ability (thanks F3) and a longing to figure this “brotherhood” thing out.
My first experience with GORUCK was when Chaser showed up with a GR-1 he bought off a guy in Charlotte, and started talking about the Bull. At this point, thanks to F3, I was back in shape, and constantly looking for new challenges, so the Bull was right up my alley. For those of you reading this that have never posted to the Bull, it is essentially 45 minutes of AMRAP hill repeats (with some stairs worked in). At the top of each “hill” you do a set number of Merkins, and at the bottom a set number of crunches, and you get bonus points for carrying weight. In that regard the Bull became Cola’s first “ruck” workout, and YHC was introduced to a whole new way to
punish shape his soul-carrier. After doing the Bull a few times, I realized I could ruck, and I started researching this GORUCK thing.
I’ve got to admit that at first I didn’t get it. How could “walking” around with a weighted rucksack get me in shape? I mean the boot camps I was attending were working, and they were working well, so now I’m going to start walking? But the more I read, and the more I started talking to people about GORUCK, the more I discovered that:
1.) it works,
2.) its more than a way to tax your body, it also gets that squishy stuff between your ears, and
3.) those that had completed GORUCK events seemed to have a significant bond with the rest of the GORUCK community.
I also discovered that there was a large contingent of F3 Nation that were also GRTs (GORUCK Tough), and those F3-GRTs really seemed to have “something” that I was looking for, so I researched when the next F3 affiliated GORUCK event was and signed up.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “I thought this was an AAR for the Heavy? What’s all this background stuff?,” well this is my AAR, and this is the way I tell a story, so…deal with it.
The Red, Light, and Blue 001:
The event I signed up for was the first Red, Light, and Blue. I really did not know what to expect. All I knew was that I had to be at the Charlotte Bridge Home on August 9, 2014 ready to do whatever the Cadre told me to do. I must admit, I didn’t train for the RLB at all. I mean, I was still doing boot camps, had run the Bull some, and I was in shape, but I didn’t even own a rucksack when I signed up. So, first step was buy a rucksack. I chose the 5.11 Rush 12, because it was like a third of the price of a GR-0. I think I got it two weeks before the RLB, but I didn’t even wrap my bricks until the weekend before the RLB, and didn’t even take them for a test-run before the event. I honestly thought I could just go in there and crush this thing, because I had been doing F3 for over a year, and I was in better shape than your average Joe. That was my mentality, and boy did I have some learning to do. Luckily I had made some contacts through the Florence F3 launch, and my good buddy U-Haul imparted a little knowledge to me, so I didn’t show up missing required items (like quitter’s cash and a photo ID). I did, however, forget a reflective strap. I had read it was required, but the RLB was during the day, so I thought I wouldn’t need it. Thankfully Freon, another F3 Florence pax, had some extra reflective strapping, and we were able to doctor my gear before the Cadre inspected it. FYI-it sucks to be one of the guys that gets the whole team dinged during the initial inspection, just not a good way to “introduce yourself” to your team or the Cadre.
Our Cadre for the RLB were Cadre Joe, Cadre Marcus, and Cadre Bert. I had the opportunity to meet the Cadre at a War Stories and Free Beer event the night before the RLB, and man was that worth it. Listening to the sacrifices the Cadre had made in defense of our Nation was intense, but it wasn’t just the stories, it was the way these Men told them. There was no regret, nor was there any bragging. There was no trepidation, nor was there any eagerness. I, personally, felt like the emotion that came through in their stories was not about their personal achievements or failures, it was about the other Men and Women that went through those experiences with them. Little did I know that listening to those stories was the genesis for the voice inside my head that now just won’t shut up, but more on that later.
Side note: Cadre Joe has since passed away, succumbing to a battle with Cancer. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to meet him, and am thankful he took the time to try and train me up, I just wish I had been a better student at that moment. My thoughts and prayers are with his family still.
RLB Welcome Party
There were about 99 of us that showed up to the RLB 001. We had the three Cadre mentioned above, and we were quickly instructed to form up into three groups. Group 1 would be for people who are just here for a GR Light. Group 2 would be for people who want a little more challenge than the traditional “GR Light” experience, and Group 3 would be for the rest of us knuckle-headed weirdos that want to get our a$$e$ kicked. True to F3 form, always take the #RedPill, YHC sprinted over to Group 3. That’s where Cadre Bert, and his “Stars-and-Bars” Baseball bat was waiting. Remember, I had basically zero GR experience, so seeing this muscle bound, special forces guy in a set of Texas Flag Ranger Panties, wielding a Baseball bat was, well, intimidating.
Lucky for me we had several GRTs in our group. They quickly started getting organized, maneuvering us into ranks and files, and getting an accurate count. Let me repeat that, they made sure to get an accurate count, and thanks be that they did. Cadre Bert then addressed us, and asked for our leader. Another weirdo, wish I could remember his name, who was obviously a GRT, stepped forward. He was in full beard sporting a pair of American Flag ranger panties. He and Cadre Bert conferred. Then Cadre Bert asked, “what’s the count?” Without hesitating our Leader gave the number we had. Cadre Bert stated, “are you sure?” Leader, “yes, Cadre.” Cadre Bert then made us a bet, if Leader was right Cadre would do 100 push-ups, if Leader was wrong, we all would do 100 push-ups while Cadre counted. At that moment I started to doubt our Leader. I mean, I didn’t even know this guy, what if he got the count wrong. Logically I knew we had counted off, more than once, and that our count was the same each time, but now I had skin in the game, and I had no control over the answer or the out-come. Well, Leader was right, and we all got to count while Cadre ripped off 100 push-ups. Lesson 1: It pays to be prepared.
The Blue Falcon:
YHC also learned a new term from his RLB experience, that is the “Blue Falcon,” which stands for “Buddy F—er.” FYI-don’t be a Blue Falcon. GR events are tough enough, don’t make it tougher. One of the RLB participants showed up to the Charlotte Bridge Home with three, massive logs. So, we had to carry those logs for the entire event. I am told that carrying logs for an entire GR Light is not normal, but this is my only GR Light experience, so to me it is. And for the next 7 hours, Group 3 got saddled with, what I thought to be at the time, the Granddaddy of all logs. Lesson 2: There is always a bigger log, so suck it up and deal with the burden you’ve been given. Or as Cadre Bert would say, “it could always be worse.”
Team building during the RLB:
I know I’m spending a lot of time talking about the RLB for an AAR that is supposed to be about the Heavy, but that’s the way I tell a story. Also, its needed background for this to all make sense…I hope.
Group 3 did not get off to a great start. We were instructed to get our Log up, and start moving. We were then instructed not to let another Group pass us. Well, that wasn’t fair, I mean we clearly had the bigger log, and we all paid the same amount to be here, so why should we have to work harder. Lot of “me first” attitudes started raising their ugly heads, and in-fighting quickly began. While we were doing that, Group 2, who had a smaller log and a better attitude, passed us. Well, that made Cadre Bert really happy…time for a correction. Cadre Bert: “take off your shoes, and hang them around your neck.” Great, how are we supposed to move quickly with no shoes? Now we got the biggest log, we’re in the back of the pack as we stop to take off our shoes, and we don’t even have protection for our feet? And I’m paying to do this? I guess Cadre Bert could tell we were feeling “sorry for ourselves” so he imparted some wisdom. He got us thinking about all the homeless people that walk the streets of cities just like Charlotte everyday without shoes, without proper clothing, with everything they own strapped to their back, yet they survive. They don’t need shoes to live, why do we? And with that, that little voice that had been planted started whispering.
Of course, at the time, YHC didn’t notice it, all YHC could think about was, “well I need shoes, those homeless people would use shoes if they had them, they wouldn’t just hang them around their necks; what a waste of perfectly good shoes; and it’s not my fault we fell behind, I’m in shape, I was working hard, its the other guys on the team, they’re not pulling their weight.” I’m not proud to admit that, but its the truth, those were the thoughts going through my head. All I could think about at that time was me. All I could think about was making excuses for why my team was not performing, instead of finding solutions or listening to the group. Thankfully, YHC, and the rest of Group 3, got much, much better as a team as the event went on.
Once we got our log back up, we got moving. Being behind seemed to stoke a competitive fire in the group. We got somewhat organized, and we started moving with a purpose. By the first drop point we had passed one team, and Cadre Bert seemed, somewhat, pleased. Lesson 3: It pays to be a winner, but you can only win as a team.
At the drop point, we set our log down. We were then instructed that our group was going to perform an Army PT test. YHC had never done an Army PT test, but I mean how hard could it be. We received instructions from Cadre on proper form and the standards that must be maintained. Cadre even started talking about “Selection,” which YHC was completely ignorant of, but apparently a bunch of the pax knew what it was and some even had aspirations of competing in it. I now am well aware of what Selection is, and I have no
business interest in that competition.
The PT test seemed to really lift my spirits. I did well in it, and enjoyed it even. I mean, it was basically what we do at F3 Boot Camps, so “wheel-house.” But I didn’t need a rucksack, a Cadre, and GORUCK to do PT. I didn’t need this event to show me I was in shape. Clearly, that couldn’t be the point of this event…could it?
After the PT test concluded, Cadre Bert called for a volunteer to be Team Leader. The person had to have no GR experience, and could not be Military. That was me, so I quickly raised my hand. I knew I was the perfect guy for the job. I mean, I am a leader. I am a partner in a law firm, I am AO Q for the Woodshed, I am Type-A all the way, my team needed a guy like me to step up…didn’t they?
Cadre Bert saw my enthusiastic hand and boom, now I’m team leader. Cadre then pulls me aside for instructions. our mission, get the group up and organized and move all personnel and coupons to the Vietnam Memorial. Huh? I’m not from Charlotte, hell I could barely find the Charlotte Bridge Home. How am I going to get 30-something strangers organized and headed to a location that I’ve never been too. Thankfully YHC is not shy and I quickly asked some questions. “Cadre, where is the Vietnam Memorial?” Cadre: “Don’t you think someone in your group is from Charlotte? Figure it out Team Leader. You’ve got 2 minutes to get these people up, organized, and moving.”
I’ve never seen anyone try and herd cats, but it could not look any funnier than me trying to do everything by myself to get this group up and running. No one was listening. GRTs were barking orders, while I was barking orders. I have a feeling our 2 minutes was not completely up, but Cadre called time anyway. Time for another correction. Lesson 4: being the Leader is harder than it looks. Lesson 5: Sometimes a bad plan is better than no plan at all.
Not 100 feet from where our failure to get organized and moving occurred was a sand volleyball court. We were instructed to circle up in the pit. A tight circle. Time to make “sugar cookies,” and Cadre wanted sand 30 feet in the air or we were going to do it again.
Looked like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viPSUY-9C58&list=LLVjMhdrwMpYDyfMXIboyREQ&index=39
I know now that the correction was due to a failure of leadership (aka, it was my fault), but at the time all I could think was, “this wouldn’t be happening if y’all would just listen to me.” Lesson 6: there is more to leading that standing at the front and barking orders. You have to learn how to be a good follower before you can be a leader.
The correction did not contain a change in leadership, so I was still Team Leader. I want to say I did better from there on out, and I did, but I was by no means a great leader. Despite my ineptitude we made it to our destination. We did start moving as a team. We had a rotation set up on our log, and it was working. We had individuals assigned as traffic guards to control traffic as we crossed, we had someone assigned to watch the 6, we may have even resembled a team. In my head I took full credit for those accomplishments, but now I know it wasn’t about me, it was about the team and communication they had developed amongst themselves, regardless of who was the leader at that time.
At the Vietnam Memorial the Cadre imparted more knowledge. They talked about how abandoned Vietnam Vets have been compared to other Veterans. How our Country has seemingly turned our backs on those Veterans. How of the various subsets that make up this Country’s homeless population Vietnam Vets are the largest portion. It was at that point that I was introduced to Angler, a 71 year old Vietnam Vet who was participating in the RLB in Group 1. The Stud’s even got his own patch: http://alldayruckoff.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Angler.jpg which I proudly sport from time to time.
I could do an entire post about the lessons I learned from just meeting Angler, but I won’t do that here. Instead, let’s just say that little whisper in my head got a touch louder.
At this point in the RLB things started to be a bit of a blur. There was more PT. We still had our logs and coupons, and we were still making our way around Charlotte as a group. At one point we did make it back to the park where we did our PT test. At that point we did some relay races amongst the teams, and I am proud to say that Group 3 won. Winning is great and all, but what I now realize is the competition between the Teams made each team stronger. Each group was frantically rooting for their racers. Just an awesome experience.
We also made a human bridge, and each member of the RLB had to cross it. Great trust exercise and experience. Also a great example of what a “group” can accomplish that an individual could never.
Eventually we made our way back to the Charlotte Bridge Home for patching and the after-party. It was fun. I made a lot of contacts, and for a moment I felt like part of a greater community of people. People that I knew, from experience, could accomplish seemingly insurmountable tasks through group effort.
Here is a link to photos from the RLB if you’re interested: http://www.teamspearhead.com/photos/red-light-blue-001-892014/
But, regretfully, as soon as YHC got back in his car to leave the RLB, the lessons he learned began to fade. I think it was because I approached the RLB with the attitude that, “I’m just going to go crush this thing, get my patch, and move on.” I did not have my mind right in approaching the event, and as a result I missed out on some valuable experiences.
To be honest once I got my RLB patch, I was content. I mean, I was the only F3 Columbia pax with an official GR patch, that I knew of, so I was riding high. The whisper in my head was completely drowned out by my own self-congratulatory sunshine pumping. Man, what a waste of effort and opportunity. Thankfully, before that GR fire was completely extinguished, Robber started stumping for a F3 Columbia Custom Challenge. There was simply no way I was going to let about 100 guys in the local F3 community complete that Challenge without me, so I signed up. What can I say…I am nothing if not competitive.
The F3 Columbia Custom Challenge
There is already a well written backblast / AAR on the Custom Challenge, here’s the link: http://f3nation.com/2014/12/03/f3-south-carolina-goruck-challenge-class-1277-backblast-aar/
That should satisfy any curiosity you have about what went down during that event. It was an amazing time and experience with my F3 brothers. But, to be completely honest, it left me feeling a little let down. I still haven’t figured out exactly why, but I just didn’t get “it,” whatever “it” was that I was looking for, from that event. Don’t get me wrong. I have some great stories to tell, like watching the machine that is Costanza reverse crabwalk up Barnwell Hill not once, but twice, during the Barnwell Hill Massacre; or Cadre Geoff’s speech in 5 points about how folding underwear 6 inches by 6 inches matters. “Attention to detail.” And I believe I grew a little closer to the group of guys that make up my beloved F3 Columbia, but we were already a team. We already had each others’ backs. We had already gelled and knew how to rely on each other. Maybe that was what was missing for me, there was no “ah ha” moment during the Custom Challenge, because we already had that moment over the months we had spent working as a team. I don’t know, but in complete honesty with myself I did not get “it” from the Challenge. In fact, that voice inside my head that had been planted at the RLB was no stronger after the Challenge.
For whatever reason, the fact that I didn’t get “it” during the Challenge, I believe, is what led me to sign up for the very first F3 Custom Heavy.
Getting Ready for the Heavy:
I believe, but I may be wrong, that TNT was the first from the F3 Columbia / Lexington / Lake Murray contingent to sign up for the Heavy. I remember thinking, “dude, my back and shoulders are still sore from the Challenge, and now you want me to sign up for something twice as long?” But, that emptiness was taunting me, and the whisper from the RLB was echoing around inside that hollow, gently building to a roar. Maybe this is where “it” will be? Maybe you will finally find what you’ve been looking for? Maybe the Heavy will crack that dense noggin of yours, peel back the layers of jade and open your eyes to the community and brotherhood you seek. Damn, that sounds kind of deep, doesn’t it? Well, that’s where I was. Those were the questions I had and the internal conversations that existed inside me. Man, what little did I know…more on that in a minute.
So, I signed up. At first I was on the wait list, but “thankfully” more of F3 Nation decided they could swallow this RedPill, and the event was opened up to the wait list. Boom, now I was in. I was HC’ed on the main page. No turning back now. Money paid, skin in the game. What was I thinking? How was I going to get myself physically and mentally ready for this? Enter Wingback, Gypsy, No Help, Clipboard, TNT, Pothole, Chin-Strap and PYT. That smaller segment of F3 Nation got me motivated to train for the Heavy, because they were signed up as well, and we were motivated to not just survive the Heavy, but to do our best and thrive during the Heavy. So, we started training. Long rucks on Sundays. Wearing a weight vest to boot-camps. Starting a ruck-specific workout on Wednesdays. Sandbags, metal plates, telephone poles, railroad rails, and even a Marathon Ruck. Along the way we got additional motivation from guys like U-Haul, who came all the way over from Florence to do the overnight Marathon Ruck with us. We also found other pax that were interested in ruck specific workouts, like Improv and Backdraft. Together we trained, we thought about gear, we tried to anticipate what we would need to complete the tasks assigned to us, we exchanged ideas on making our set-up more efficient. Some went to Charlotte for the Quarter-Ruck. Some even worked in a GR Challenge in Charleston. We did all we could to try and get ready, and during that preparation we bonded. Before we knew it, it was time to stop talking about it, and do it. So, off to the Battery in Charleston, where Cadres Jesse, Dakota, and Big Daddy were waiting.
I know that Dallas, who organized the F3 Custom Heavy, is working on an official AAR, so I am not trying to steal his thunder. If you want the play-by-play then stay tuned for the BB from Dallas. I have no doubt it is going to be well worth the read, cause that dude does everything with 110% effort. This post is just about highlights, and my personal experience. Also, I am not going to give you a run down of all the gear I used, with step-by-step critiques of what worked and what didn’t. There are plenty of AARs out there from Heavys that will give you that information, and those authors are probably more qualified than me to give those recommendations. I will say this, you will probably pack too much, but that’s okay.
So, on with the story.
A REAL Welcome Party:
It seemed like the event came upon us like a South Carolina Summer Thunderstorm. You could see it on the horizon, but were still surprised by the first bolt of lightening. Of the 57 men that showed up, only 3, I believe, had never completed a GORUCK event. This was a group with experience. We were F3 Strong and GORUCK tough. We had taken and completed GR Challenges before…we were ready…weren’t we? Wait, where’s the flag pole. We hadn’t even gotten started and we didn’t have a flag pole. Not a good omen. Luckily we were there early. We figured it out. We made do. Then a random F3 pax from Charleston, who was just there to watch the launch, showed up with a shovel flag base. Crisis averted.
Then the storm hit. Instructions seemed to fly at us a thousand miles an hour. Disorganization quickly set in. Friction…in-fighting…we had felt this before. Our collective experiences with GORUCK helped us weather the initial storm, but the Welcome Party felt like it would take all day.
First we couldn’t seem to collectively “dump” our rucks to meet Cadre Jesse’s approval. Not a good start. Once our carefully packed Rucks were in complete disarray on the grass, we were told to hold up our weights above our heads. It seems about 8 of our number forgot to write their names and phone numbers on their weights, so we got to keep our weights over our heads until they were all properly marked. Overall we stood there for about thirty minutes with 25 – 30 pounds suspended over our heads. Doubt was creeping in, at least for YHC. If we can’t even get through the initial inspection without correction, then we’re in for a long 24 hours.
Eventually our weights were brought up to standard. Then it was time for IDs and Quitter’s cash. That we passed more efficiently. Next, pack your stuff back up, you have 2 minutes. We couldn’t do it. Time for our second correction. After a bunch of rotating jump squats, we try again. Still couldn’t meet Cadre Dakota’s standard. Were we ready? Could we do this? More corrections. Mt. Climbers, Flutter Kicks, other PT. Finally we get our rucks re-packed.
More PT along the Battery. Low crawling in a Spearhead formation…we fail to meet our hack. Buddy carries down and back…we fail to meet our hack. Buddy drags…we barely even get started, when Cadre Dakota yells “Stop.” What just happened? No one knows. Turns out, someone hit and knocked down the flag. The pen-ultimate no-no of a GORUCK event had occurred barely an hour into our Heavy. The flag had hit the ground. However, out of that colossal blunder came an opportunity for a lesson, and for the next several minutes Cadre Dakota instructed us on what the Flag really means. And for some reason, that little voice inside my head spoke up. Not a whisper, but a calming voice. “Yes, yes, listen to him, he has ‘it,’ and he’s trying to share ‘it’ with you,” it seemed to tell me. So, instead of panicking, I listened, and, as best I could tell, so did the other 56 of my team. We listened to him explain that it wasn’t that particular piece of cloth he cared about, that’s not what he and the other veterans had fought for, had sacrificed for, it was the Nation that that piece of cloth represented. It was all the sacrifices that had come before us that that piece of cloth represented. That is what we had so stupidly disrespected. Now I know that none of us intended to “disrespect” the Flag, or anything the Flag stands for, but sometimes disrespect born out of ignorance or blindness is worse. Correction number 3, 1000 reps. And we completed them all.
Then we had a moment as a team with the Flag, and during that moment, in the BOM around the Flag, listening to team members stump about their feelings, encourage each other, and pray, I started to feel a little buzz. Was this “it?” Maybe, but I had another 22+ hours to figure that out.
Time to get organized and start moving. There were a lot of coupons, a shovel flag, and a team weight, not to mention a double column of 57 men that needed to maneuver through the crowded streets of downtown Charleston. We started moving, and quickly found that we were not going to meet the Standards the Cadre had set for us. I now believe that is part of the experience. You have to learn to fail. You have to learn that individually you cannot do it, no matter how hard you try. The TEAM will succeed or fail as a TEAM, and only if everyone is giving max effort and looking out for each other will the TEAM prosper. But, to be honest, that didn’t click with me for another 17 hours or so. In the meantime it was one missed time hack after another. There were causalities that had to be carried. There were flutter kicks in water. Bearcrawls, buddy carries, lunge walks, etc.
Eventually we made it to our destination, a small bridge crossing a small canal near the base of the Ravenel Bridge. There we had a mission to complete, and it involved trudging through Pluff Mud up to our hips. Oyster shells, broken bottles, discarded asphalt and concrete, all stood in our way. Eventually, after drawing the ire of the Cadre more than once, we accomplished the task. But this was a low moment for YHC. The Pluff Mud and cold water had me shaking uncontrollably as we waited for instructions for our next objective. This was the first time I thought about quitting, and it rattled me a lot. You see, part of the reason I took this challenge on was because I tell myself that I am the type of person that will not quit, yet there I was contemplating just walking away. Why put myself through this? Did I really need another patch? What was the point? Now I realize that moment was the beginning of me getting “it.” I didn’t quit, and no one else did either. My team was there for me, checking on me, encouraging me, and with their help I pulled through that dark moment. We received our new objectives, and started organizing our team.
Part of the new objectives involved carrying the biggest, heaviest log / telephone pole YHC had ever seen. It made the log from RLB look like a twig, and even with 40 of F3’s best under it we could barely move it 250 feet without needing a break. And we had to take that thing all the way to Mt. Pleasant. Halfway across the Ravenel Bridge, YHC had his second encounter with the “I want to quit” feeling. But at that moment I realized, everyone there probably wanted to quit, and that if I quit, then the rest of my Team would have to carry more weight, cause that log wasn’t going to get any lighter if I left. They needed me, and I needed them. It didn’t matter how long it took, we were going to do this, and we were going to do it together. They were not going to quit on me, and I wasn’t going to quit on them. We, as a Team, were starting to get “it.”
I’d love to tell you that after that moment the log seemed lighter, and we started moving faster, but it didn’t and we didn’t. But no one quit, and eventually we made it to the other side of the Cooper River. There Cadre Jesse was waiting, and he was not happy. Time for more corrections.
Countless up-and-overs with the Log. All of us giving max effort, but none of our lifts meeting his standards. Our shoes were taken. We were threatened with living with that log for the rest of the event. Still no one quit.
Eventually we were allowed to put the log down. We then had a time hack to meet to get to Patriot’s Point, more specifically to the USS Yorktown, and, thankfully, we finally made a time hack. Our reward, at 17 hours into this event, time to take our PT test.
For whatever reason, just like during the RLB, the PT test was a calming influence on me. I can do PT. F3 had given me that, and we, as a group, crushed our PT test. We were then rewarded with a speech from Cadre Jesse about Cadre Dakota. I am not going to tell you all the details, but it was moving, I mean emotionally moving, and we all gathered a deep respect for the man who was beating us down. This occurred right in front of the Purple Heart Memorial at Patriot’s Point, and it is a moment none of us will soon forget.
After a few moments to collect ourselves, we were tasked with the Purple Heart run. Essentially, we had to latch our rucks together into one long line, and then complete a mile loop as a Team. After a bit of trial and error we accomplished the task. I must say morale was high at that point. We felt like a Team, and we were beginning to move like a Team. At the conclusion of that mile, we rucked back up, formed into ranks and files, and received our next objective. We met our next time hack, and, to be honest, we were riding high. What’s that old saying, pride always cometh before the fall? Well, boy did we fall. I am not trying to call anyone out, as I am convinced that the Cadre were looking for us to make a mistake, so was going to happen to someone eventually, but while we were filling up our water having just crushed our last time hack, Cadre Dakota overheard one of our Team ask a non-participant what time it was…that’s a big GR no-no in case you didn’t know. Time for another correction, and it came in the form of us having to haul that Log again. This was a morale killer. You could feel the good feelings leaving the group. Again, it was not one man’s fault, the Cadre were going to find a way to put us through this moment, of that I am sure, because that moment is yet another step in getting “it.” You have to encounter, and overcome, adversity before you’ll get “it.”
Amazingly, not a single negative word was uttered. The feeling of disappointment was palpable, but it passed, and as a Team we shouldered our burden yet again, and rucked on.
Cadre Jesse had told us that at some point during this event we would experience a buzz. We would actually feel the comradery. Like so many other things he said that night, he was right, and for YHC that happened at a white picket fence about a mile from Patriot’s Point in Mt. Pleasant. We, as a team, had accomplished a task Cadre Dakota assigned to us, we made it a certain distance without putting the Log down, and we had been promised we could drop the Log, and be done with it for the remainder of the event. Of course, dropping the Log came with a price tag, and the price was 500 reps of Cadre’s choice at the Endex, but we gladly accepted that bargain and accomplished the task. Then, as we were maneuvering the Log to place it where we had been instructed, we got overzealous and dropped it before being told to do so. Cadre Dakota was not happy, and we were told we would have to shoulder the Log and carry on. Yet another moment of palpable disappointment, but not a single negative word. I cannot tell you how amazed I was that 57, type A, sleep-deprived, exhausted men did not turn on one another at that point. I cannot explain it, but we didn’t. Instead we formed up. We lifted, and we were instructed to take three steps back. We did it without complaining, and were rewarded by Cadre Dakota with a command to drop it. So, we did, and that thing still sits there today. I know because after the Palmetto 200 this weekend, I went by and tore off a chunk of the beast for a keep-sake.
At that moment, the burden we had carried safely deposited, we came together as a Team, in true F3 style, for a BOM. In that BOM I felt the buzz Cadre Jesse talked about. My whole spirit a live wire of emotion, and I know for a fact others felt it too. I felt myself let go of “my self” and embrace the “Team.” And as far as I can tell, that is the amorphous “it” I had been searching for. The best analogy I can come up with is the mother, who seeing her child trapped under a car, taps into a deep inner strength that she should not be able to possess and lifts that weight. It is because she is no longer restrained by self-doubt and selfishness. Her entire being is focused on something that, to her, is greater than her “self,” and in that moment she is freed and her inner strength emerges. I am not a soldier. I do not pretend to know what those brave Men and Women go through, but I think through this experience I do understand them a little better. “It’s not about You.” “It” is about the Team, the Group, the Community…the Nation. We are all in this together, and we will succeed or fail together. At least that’s what I got from that moment.
As that BOM disbanded, we began to make our way to Isle of Palms. We all knew the Endex was near. Yet the group was a buzz with conversations that had nothing to do with the Endex. We were talking about “it,” about our experience. We were learning about each other. We had become a true Team. Truth is, at that moment, it didn’t matter if we had an hour or 24 more hours to go, because we had finally stopped looking at the Heavy as just another 24 hours we had to survive, it was no longer about the time limits, or the Endex, because we had already attained the goal. We had become a Team. So, as a Team we rucked on. We listened to the Cadre. We did as instructed, and made our way to the public access point for the beach at Isle of Palms. There we partnered up and rucked down the beach to our Endex.
For an hour or so after we arrived at the Endex, we completed more PT. Surf torture, flutter kicks in the cold ocean water. Sugar Cookies, up-downs, group squats, etc. It didn’t matter, we had “it,” and nothing could take that from us. Finally, we reached what we thought was the end, and then Cadre Dakota spoke up. “You still owe me 1000 reps.” He was right, we owed 500 for the bargain to drop the Log, and another 500 that we had accumulated along the way as corrections. So, we lined up in double arm intervals and began doing up-downs. That is when YHC heard Cadre Dakota say, “We are going to do this until you reach 1000, or until someone quits.” And at that moment, YHC had his third encounter with thoughts of quitting. At that moment I was ready to quit…for my Team, and I suspect others who heard his comment were ready to quit too. If it meant that I didn’t get a patch, but I spared my Team from another 950 up-downs, then I was prepared to do that, because I had already gotten what I came here for, I had “it” and no one could take that from me. Thankfully, right as I was having that conversation with myself, Cadre Dakota told us to “stop.” “Turn and face the Flag,” he said, and we did. And, in unison, we said “I pledge allegiance, to the Flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it Stands, One Nation, Under God, Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all.” Never in my 35 years of living in this Great Country have those words meant more to me. I was prepared to suffer through the remaining up-downs, or whatever else he wanted to throw at us, because I wasn’t leaving this Team. They didn’t need me to sacrifice for them, in fact they wouldn’t want someone to take this from them. If we had 950 up-downs to do to finish this thing out, then we were going to do each and everyone of them. But, as we turned to face Cadre Dakota, and continue to pay the debt we had incurred, he said “That was so beautiful, y’all don’t owe me anything more.” And with that, we were done. We lined up, we received our piece of cloth, we hugged, we prayed, some of us even cried. And that was that.
57 Men of F3 Nation took the ultimate RedPill and completed the GORUCK Heavy on March 13-14, 2015, and I am proud to say I was one of that number. 25 and half grueling hours of 100%, max effort. It cannot be adequately explained. It must be experienced. I have been asked by countless people about this event, and I always come up at a loss for words. It was intense. It drug me through the gambit of emotions. One of the Shadows for the event, Optimus, put together this video, and I still get a little emotional watching it: https://vimeo.com/122703427, because it captures a little of what I’m trying to say, and reminds me of what I experienced, what I felt, and what I learned.
Where do I go from here:
So, the Heavy is done. I’ve even got the Patch. There are 56 others out there, but the truth is, just like Cadre Dakota taught us about the Flag, those little swatches of cloth really aren’t worth anything. It is what they represent that matters, and that is what I feel every time I think about this event. In this video https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153815527040260&set=o.757828967634543&type=2&theater you hear a speech from Cadre Big Daddy. You’ll notice I haven’t spent anytime talking about what he taught us during this event, and that’s because what he taught us, and the way he opened up to our Team on the Ravenel Bridge feels a little to personal to share with you, or with anyone else outside my Team. We earned those lessons, and we earned his story. If you want it, then go earn it from him yourself, you’ll be glad you did. But, in his speech from the video, he talks about the five phases of team building. We hit all of those…more than once. Then he talks about taking the lessons learned from this event and applying them in your life. About not forgetting them, or all our effort would be wasted. That struck a chord with me, and I am trying to do just that. Being a good team member in every environment. Attention to Detail, Teamwork breeds Success. No obstacle is too big if we are willing to work together. Personal responsibility. Accountability, to yourself and those around you. I will not Quit on you, so do not Quit on Me. Can you imagine the world we would live in if everyone thought that way?
Alright, I’ve stumped enough, and that little voice inside me feels content for now. I hope this recitation, this testimony, means something to you. I hope it plants a seed, or waters one that was already there. If you know what I’m talking about and have “it,” I hope you share it. If you don’t, then I hope you find it, cause its everywhere. You see, what I really learned through all this, through months of training, through the RLB OO1, GR Challenge 1277, and GR Heavy 064, is “it” was already all around me, I just didn’t realize it.
That’s all…for now.