The Spur Ride of my life...
WARNING: There is some usage of unexplained military jargon and a new "word of the day." If this is an issue for you, have a dictionary at the ready.
The day after our 36 hour FTX, five of us from Bravo Troop (BTRP) traveled down to Hilo to compete with 20 other troopers in the 1/299 CAV's first Spur Ride.
We arrived to the Spur Ride exhausted, knowing that we faced 24-36 more hours without any sleep and more physical, mental, and emotional challenges.
We felt woefully unprepared, which, as it turns out, we were. It started at 1400 with a mandatory medical review, Orientation, two rounds of land navigation (day and night) - 7,000m of walking per event, weapons proficiency (240L & .50cal), Individual Weapons Qualifications (M4 EST), a RECON exam, Army Physical Fitness Test (2 mile run, push-ups, and sit-ups) followed by a 7 station STX lane with a minimum of 1,000 m between stations (sling loading, call for fire, estimation of range, commo, first aide, 9 line). This ruck march culminated in a 2-mile litter carry.
By the time we got to station six, my team was wiped out. We were 23 hours into the Spur Ride and we had the 9-line test to do. Laid out in front of us were the litters with 2-45 lbs. plates on them. A bit distracting, knowing that this was our next and last task. We finished our test, drank some water and prepped our litter - securing the weight so that it would not shift or fall off.
Now, I know, on the surface, 90+ lbs. doesn't seem like a lot for four grown men to carry around. In fact, My initial idea was to take one end of the litter for myself and let the other four guys rotate two at a time on the other end, allowing more rest time. When I lifted up my end, my portion of the weight felt like 180 lbs. This caused me to stop and think through the task at hand and I realized that I was trying to work harder and not smarter. There were five of us on our team and only four positions to carry. So, we could rotate out and everyone would get a rest - in theory. We would need that rest.
Crossing the start line led us onto what would best be generously described as a recently scraped path in the middle of a jungle. It was more like following the path of a M1A2 tank that broke brush in front of us, leaving all of the detritus behind for us to wade through. With uneven footing and the ground rising and falling in increments just large enough to keep our legs screaming on the incline and the decline we marched on. It was as if we were surfing on six-foot-face waves of dark, loamy earth.
We took breaks as needed, but by the time we hit an improved road over a mile later, we were spent. Each of us were on the verge of breaking. Luckily, strategically placed in our path was a medic station, and we were able to refill our water and rally a little bit. As we were getting ready to mount up, we looked down the road and saw five soldiers headed in our direction. As they got closer, we recognized them from our troop. It was the guys from my dismount team. They congratulated us on making it this far and then encouraged us to keep going.
You know that moment in movies where at the darkest hour a little stream of light filters through giving the hero hope? It was like that. Their appearance really lifted our flagging spirits. One of the new guys told us, "Just so you know we set up LP/OPs (Listening Posts/ Observation Posts) every few hundred meters."
Newly determined, we hefted the litter back up to our shoulders and pushed on. In an effort to keep myself motivated and to set a marching rhythm I started to make up and call out BTRP themed cadences. "We are Bravo Troop. Mighty, mighty Bravo Troop. Black Jack Bravo Troop. Walking through the jungle and what do we see? Charlie Troop looking right past me..." You know how it goes. To my surprise, our new traveling companions and my team responded to my call and now 10 voices were cutting a path down the road making way for our completion. As we hit each LP/OP along the way 5 more members of BTRP joined our ranks. By the last 500 meters our entire troop had joined us, including our commander. Each man joining their voices with ours, cadences ringing through the air and continued encouragements helped us quicken our pace to the end.
Remember the end of the movie "Rudy," when the team members each showed up and offered to give up his spot so Rudy could play? And then, when he got to actually play and everyone was shouting his name? It felt like that. We weren't the best team out there, but we hadn't given up and our troop was there to support us. BTRP was the only troop to go out and meet their Spur Ride team and walk them in. And, their support was infectious. As we walked across the finish line everyone in the vicinity started cheering. I have to admit, just like in the theater during that part of the Rudy, the trail got a bit dusty for me in that moment.
A humbling moment came as I was making my way to get my mandatory end of the Spur Ride check-up by the medics. As I walked towards the medic station, members of my troop insisted on grabbing my ACH (Kevlar helmet), IBA (body armor), assault pack, weapon, and blouse from me so I wouldn't have to carry the weight any more and so I could start to cool down. Such a small thing, but meaningful. It added to the overall experience.
I was glowing
like a champion, like we had won the whole shooting match. In truth, not
one of my team got their spurs. In spite of this, we were still proud
of what we had accomplished. Our troop had joined together to support us
and in the end we had something more important than spurs, we had
finally gelled together as a troop - Bravo Troop. We are brothers,
working, sweating, failing and succeeding together.
I am proud and grateful to be a member of Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry Regiment, 29th Brigade Combat Team. These are the guys I trust to have my back when things go sideways.
It is always the small kindnesses that matter. Large, grandiose
gestures are meant for the world to see, the small things are for each
2. After the darkness, there is always light. It is usually in the form of a friend, brother, or even a total stranger.
3. Pessimism and cynicism are unnecessary burdens to carry. Let them go and you ease your load.
4. Physical prowess in most ways is a mental game. Conquer your mind and you conquer your body.
5. At the end of the day, it isn't about being better than others, it is about being YOUR best. Measuring up to others is a fool's game and even if you are high speed, there is someone working harder than you and better than you. Push yourself to be the best you.
6. Oh yeah, and I have a lot to learn and massive amounts of work ahead of me. Part of the joy of the journey.
For more info on what the Order of the Spur is or what a Spur Ride can consists of you, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Spur