2E Warrior Challenge tests mental and physical strength
February 6, 2014
Eight teams from the 2nd Engineer Battalion, stationed at White Sands Missile Range, competed against each other for a chance to win the first 2d Engineer Battalion Sapper Steel Warrior Challenge and boasting rights on Jan. 29.
The teams competed along a grueling 8.6 miles course that included five rigorous activities that tested the Soldiers' physical and mental strength as part of a larger battalion effort to train Soldiers how to handle mentally trying activities after having exhorted physical strength.
"We're trying to get them to focus their minds, calm their bodies down and complete a fine motor task," said Battalion Commander Lt. Col. James Koeppen. "We're just trying to do a practical exercise to use the skills they've learned in a physical demanding environment."
The Warrior Challenge was just a small portion of a battalion program meant to enhance performance and resiliency while building the team and esprit de corps. The Warrior Challenge meant to put performance enhancement lessons learned in the classroom into practice. The five activities in the challenge were created by staff officers in the battalion and aided by representatives from the Comprehensive Soldiers and Family Fitness Training Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. CSF2 Master Resilience Trainer Brian Miles said they were contacted by the Battalion Executive Officer Maj. Travis Tilman to coordinate training for their Soldiers.
Tilman arrived in June from West Point's Center for Enhanced Performance where he was an assistant professor with a background in sport and performance psychology. Koeppen directed the staff to develop a program that builds mental toughness and resiliency and had Tilman take the lead. Miles said the training will include at least 16 hours of performance enhancement training education per platoon in addition to their required resiliency training.
The training is two and a half days long and focuses on how to maintain attention, composure, and focus when multiple stimuli surround you. A portion of the training is to teach several different types of energy management techniques to help cope with stressful situations that are commonly seen in theater. After the Soldiers are taught these techniques in a classroom setting, they are taken out to the field to implement and familiarize themselves with the new techniques.
"The Army's very good at training Soldiers physically, so when they have to go out and react to what they need to do they have the muscle memory…but muscle memory comes from the brain too so if we can strengthen their ability to perform mentally (it'll) take anything that they can do and enhance it," Miles said.
The Warrior Challenge was created as a fun, yet challenging, way to engage their Soldiers while training. The challenge began at 7 a.m. with Team 1, a team followed behind every half hour. The Soldiers were timed in each activity. The activities consisted of strenuous work, like carrying a heavy tire as a team to and from a designated lane, followed by a detail oriented activity, like putting thread through a needle.
"In combat if you've got a firefight you've got a big adrenaline rush, but you've got to be able to focus yourself to engage the enemy with your weapon. Or if you're physically tired and you're in a route clearance mission, which our Soldiers do, they've got to be able to clear their heads and focus on the roads and try and identify IED's," Koeppen said. "We try to put it all together to help them perform better as Soldiers."
The winners of the challenge received a 2E trophy and individual Army Achievement Medals. Team Seven, made up of Soldier from the 595 Sapper Co., was the first team to win the Warrior Challenge. Team Leader Staff Sgt. Jonathan Garza said they were well prepared for the challenge as they practiced two months prior to the competition through physical training.
"We were the last team to go and before we started we said this was for our fallen brothers. We used that as our motivation to get us through so when we were hurting we just didn't let it get to us," Garza said.
The winners will have a chance to defend their title in next month's challenge. Different physical and mental activities will be developed for next month's challenge.