'Steel Warriors' celebrate July Fourth with twist
July 11, 2013
CAMP REDLEG, United Arab Emirates -- Camp Redleg in the United Arab Emirates was up a bit earlier than usual July 4 as 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, Steel Warriors celebrated the 237th anniversary of freedom, while deployed.
Despite being so far away, their moods were not dampened by the lack of fireworks, cold drinks and barbecues with family and friends.
Instead, members of the Steel Warrior Battalion were buzzing around the start point of an event they hosted an adventure race.
It was a grueling physical and mental challenge consisting of several physical tests and puzzles spread out across the camp. The event drew 23 teams of four, consisting of at least one officer, noncommissioned officer and Soldier. British and Australian coalition partners also provided teams to compete, some even set up a few stations to add their own touch to the race.
To kick off the event, Lt. Col. JP Maddaloni, 1-4th FA commander, gave a speech explaining the importance of the 4th of July and why it should be celebrated, quoting wise words from founding father John Adams: "It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."
Following the commander's remarks, the race began in earnest. Teams quickly sprinted out the gate maneuvering the course through strategies they had devised prior to starting the race.
The teams started on Camp Redleg and strategized how they would attack the different obstacles to complete the event in the shortest amount of time. There were 11 stations in all, each tested brute strength, brain power, agility, endurance or coordination, but most importantly all stations required teamwork to succeed.
The stations included such obstacles as tire and generator carries, sled pulls, sign language challenges and a litter carry over a vehicle.
"It was a challenge, you could see who had the personal courage to keep going when it got tough and who stepped up to motivate everyone when guys were tired," said Spc. Zachary Ewing of B Battery.
Staff Sgt. Carl Schwander, also from B Battery, liked the way teamwork factored into the competition.
"This was a great way for Soldiers to get involved and demonstrate their leadership abilities," he said. "Everyone was equal on the team; if a specialist had the right idea, he could step up and take charge, it wasn't just NCOs and officers making all of the decisions."
One of the most popular stations ended up being the one hosted by the Australians. Teams had to run to the Australian compound to find the station and once there had to attempt several Australian-themed events, including tossing a rugby ball, shooting a mini basketball and playing "high jack."
2nd Lt. Christopher Rossi, platoon leader for the security force company, really liked the coalition contributions.
"I think including our coalition partners was a great idea. I'm glad we got to share this holiday with them and show them a little of our culture, and we got to learn about theirs to. I'd still take football over rugby any day though," he said.
When the dust settled, the British team came away with the gold, having completed the course in a little more than two hours.
The last team to finish was the other coalition partner team that participated.
The Australians triumphantly crossed the finish line at five hours, receiving the golden toilet seat award for last place.
After Maddaloni handed the trophy over to the British, he invited everyone back to the dining facility for a special 4th of July meal consisting of grilled steak, fried chicken, shrimp, crab legs and mashed potatoes to reward everyone for their hard work.
The Steel Warriors have had an exciting few weeks lately; including a visit from Maj. Gen. Gary Cheek, Third Army, US Army Central deputy commanding general.
Cheek came visited and discussed key issues with Soldiers, including sexual harassment and assault problems, reminding them that even though they are deployed they still need to be combating harassment and assault.
Cheek stated that he is looking forward to a safer Army than we have had in the past, and rewarded the Steel Warriors with challenge coins for their hard work and sacrifices.
"I appreciate that an officer of such rank would take the time to personally recognize the efforts of Soldiers here are camp Redleg. I that it is an indication to other Soldiers that we are not in the middle of nowhere on our own," said Sgt. Samuel Newsom.