'Ironhorse' Mungadai: Test of fitness, flexibility, solidarity
April 26, 2013
FORT HOOD, Texas (April 26, 2013) -- The Ironhorse Brigade company, troop and battery commanders completed the first "Mungadai," April 9-11, here.
"Our toughest fights, our most challenging missions, should come on the training ground, not on the battlefield" is only a fraction of the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Commander Col. Steve Gilland's philosophy on training, and his Mungadai exercise was anything but short of challenging.
Modeled after the legendary Mongolian Cavalry selection process, Mungadai is a team building event designed to test the adaptability of leaders, and build esprit de corps throughout the brigade. In addition to being extremely challenging, the commanders were not told in advance what events Mungadai consisted of.
"I'd heard of Mungadai before when I was in Hawaii with the 25th Infantry Division so I thought the Mungadai was going to be more of a sports based event," said Holley, N.Y., native Capt. Michael Kaness, future commander of Company B, 1st Squadron, 7th "Garryowen" Cavalry Regiment of the Ironhorse Brigade. "This was actually real-world mission based [and was] very realistic to what we do."
Kaness added the event gave commanders a great learning aspect on knowing when to be in charge and when to take orders.
"We've all had some level of leadership responsibility," said Kaness. "At some point that's taken away from you, so you just sit there and you face out and you scan your sector."
The commanders were broken down into four squads. Leadership positions changed regularly, but they worked together as one platoon. The three-day event began with a 1.5-mile run, 200 team pull-ups, a 1.5-mile, 150 lb. litter carry and 150lb. Skedco litter drag, all while wearing M40 protective masks.
The platoon of commanders then immediately went into isolation to conduct mission analysis in order to plan their next move. The commanders were dropped off at one location, and used basic Soldier skills like land navigation and troop leading procedures to navigate their way around Fort Hood training areas.
Key leader engagements, reaction to contact, establishing an ambush and more than 17 miles of foot marching with a 55 lb rucksack were all incorporated into the training event.
Mother Nature contributed her own elements by throwing severe rain and hail into the scenario on day two, adding to the already challenging exercise.
"On a scale of one to ten, [this exercise] was a 10," said Columbia, S.C., native, Capt. Lekisa Dempsey, commander of Company B, 115th "Muleskinner" Brigade Support Battalion, of the Ironhorse Brigade. It was very challenging -- the terrain, working with different commanders and the weather was really, really bad on the second day. It was challenging for me."
Kaness said he too found the event tough.
"We can do all individual tasks pretty regularly, but compiling them together at the rapid pace and turn around that we executed this mission was extremely challenging for us," explained Kaness.
Although Mungadai is a test of will and adaptability, the leaders received much more. They were able to establish bonds they may not have otherwise done without this team-building event.
"I think there were commanders that would have never talked to each other if this did not happen," said Dempsey. "I think so many olive branches were grown over this three-day period. I really do. I have some other comrades that I can lean on. I appreciate it."