NCOA: Iron Squad teaches teamwork
Staff Sgt. Michael Evens, Staff Sgt. Yuri Barsukov, Sgt. David Webster, Staff Sgt. Martin Baldwin and Staff Sgt. Jordan Thibodoes, of Team 6, push a Humvee up a hill near Beaver Lake as a part of the NCOA Iron Squad Challenge Sept. 23.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 26, 2013) -- The Iron Squad Challenge is the culminating event for NCO Academy students, and after the grueling four-hour, six-event competition students still do not know who won.

Each team consists of five members and teams were comprised of Senior and advanced NCO course students from different Aviation military occupational specialties, and the winner will be revealed Sept. 27 when the classes graduate.

"This competition is good for team building and esprit de corps," said 1st Sgt. Gloria J. Cain, NCOA deputy commandant. "It makes them push themselves to their limits and sometimes even past because this competition helps the students push themselves farther than they might have ever gone.

"The students who compete go the extra mile -- they set themselves apart," she added.

Forty Soldiers competed, divided up into eight teams. There are time and point penalties for infractions for all of the events, and whichever team has the fastest time in the end wins.

"All five members must complete every event, if anyone fails or hurts themselves then the team is disqualified," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Young, senior small group leader and Iron Squad NCO in charge.

Each class builds their own teams, and Young said that each class has to live with the decisions that they make, even if one team member brings the rest down. But one competitor said that is what makes the competition worthwhile.

"I love doing this type of stuff, especially when it involves teamwork because you are not only relying on yourself for success, but you have to depend on others as well," said Staff Sgt. Jordan Thibodeaus. "We have to support each other and try harder for the entire team."

"This is about team effort. They have to make the weakest link in their team stronger," said Young. "No one is an individual here. At the end it is all about completing something as a team and their ability to work together. And they will take what they learn here back to their individual units in their tool bags."

The competition starts with sit-ups and pushups back-to-back for one minute each with a silent count. The litter carry relay follows.

"They have to correctly assemble the litter using an Army Combat Uniform and then carry their casualty around two cones," said Young.

After the first three events, teams move on to the NCOA obstacle course, which is the only obstacle course on the installation, according to Young. Then, without resting, they move on to the pull-ups where they have to do as many as they can.

The last two pieces of the competition are the ruck march, or ruck run, and the High-Mobility, Multi-Purpose, Wheeled-Vehicle 998 push obstacles.

These last two obstacles usually push the students to their limits because they are physically exhausted by that time, said Young.

"The 50-meter Humvee push is uphill and the ruck is 4.3 miles around Beaver Lake," he said. "The vehicle weighs around half a ton and competitors carry 25 lbs. in their rucksacks during the ruck. So by the end, their bodies are spent if they gave it their all."

And the students were, by 9 a.m. Sept. 23 when the competition wrapped up.

"This competition is very challenging," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Blewer. "I am completely exhausted -- the truck push was mentally and physically exhausting."

Blewer said that almost every class was represented at the competition and that it was great to have those not participating cheer him on.

"It's great motivation," he said. "Our team is older than most of the other teams, but I still think we did a great job because we pushed each other to keep going."

Rucking, team building, building camaraderie and friendly competition is what the Army is all about, said Thibodeaus from Team 6.

"If we win, to me it would just mean that we were successful together while having fun doing it," he said."It would be great, though, (if we won) because some people think that 15Qs are lazy and only sit in towers and can't do basic Army stuff. So, it would be nice to prove to them that we are just as strong and brag a little."

Page last updated Thu September 26th, 2013 at 00:00