Gold Star Teen Adventures – Special Operations Freedom Challenge – Custom GORUCK Light
AAR By Mark Cichonski (Astronomer)
For my entire career, I have made it a (bad?) habit of finding events near where I am working to partake in.
Imagine my surprise when I not only found a light that was near Miami, but an added bonus of Cadre Marcus! The only downside is I missed the Charlotte GRC with my Spearhead Teammates. (I hear there was some serious Marine abuse going on…)
Some background-GSTA runs adventures for kids who have lost their fathers. They were running this event at the same time as a 24 hour run and swim.
After a quick ride down to beautiful Islamorada Key and Founders Park from Miami, it was right to work. I met my team mates. 12 folks all from Upper Keys Cross Fit. Needless to say, they were all in better shape than me. However, with no GR experience or prior military…uh oh.
First question…does anyone have a flag…no. GSTA came up with a flag that had flown over outposts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Short safety briefing, remove watches, then first assignment and time hack. “Go find a flagpole for the American Flag, here is some 550 cord, tie it off and I will inspect it…”
Team takes off running, slow guy (that would be me) gets in the front to set the pace. Team wants to go faster, guys, we are 30 seconds into this thing, we have 5 hours to go…
Back to the middle of the field for the start of you know what…WELCOME PARTY. Standard welcome party fare, lots of pushups, flutter kicks, etc… No spoilers here, but key lesson learned early, LISTEN TO THE CADRE. Do only what and how they tell you to do it. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.
Once the welcome party was over, we did our first lap. I say lap because we were constrained to Founders Park.
Some staggering numbers, 450 Special Operations Warriors KIA since 9/11 leaving 1015 kids without a dad. That became our target for the event, 4 hours and 50 minutes, 1015 reps, and a 5.56 mile goal for our movement.
Marcus has a unique system of team weights, Flak jackets/Vest for Leadership and he slipped a 25# plate in as well. For those who have never worn a vest, it is eye opening. Of course there is a blue finger as well, that amazingly required major repair work, but held up during the event.
After our first lap, we were introduced to the Teamwork, Leadership and Communication Logs. (Oh and by the way, I was pretty much on a no-talking profile, so for those of you who know me, that was probably the hardest part of the challenge). Team leader makes the correct decision, start with the smallest log so people can gain “experience”. After another lap, it was “in the water”. 25 man-makers, slamming down your ruck and submerging. Next log.
Now it is getting a little harder, the weight is beginning to add up. Finish lap, “back in the water”. 25 more man makers. Are those stinging jelly fish? Ouch, yup!
Now we play a game. Two people will stay in the water and if we can make it to the trash can and back before they come up for air, we don’t have to go back into the water. Once again, insure you are clear on instructions.
Now we pick up the communication log. Not sure how much it weighed, definitely somewhere between my dog and my car. Now we are really challenged because we have to do a lap with all the weight with no one to relieve anyone. We just about made it. A great coaching opportunity to talk about failure and then of course the need to go strong through the end. The team recomposed itself for a short haul to the truck.
We then finished off with a “departing” party to finish up our reps. It was an honor being led through the final set of exercises by the founder of GSTA, Kent Solheim. Kent is a wounded warrior, emphasis on the warrior, who lost his right leg in battle. He was running laps when I got there and motivated the team through the final set of exercises. An honor to meet you!
It was an honor and privilege to participate in this event. From the remembrance field to cheering the runners on as they ran past us, it was all for a great cause. And as usual, Marcus learned us on Teamwork, Leadership and Communication (most communication, damn that log was heavy)