Mountain climber speaks to deploying Soldiers on teamwork, resiliency
May 5, 2014
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Erik Weihenmayer, "The Blind Climber," spoke at the McChord Theater April 24 to Soldiers of 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, 7th Infantry Division.
An author and motivational speaker, Weihenmayer came to JBLM to talk to Soldiers of the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion about life lessons he has learned on leadership, teamwork and resiliency.
Weihenmayer is an accomplished mountain climber who reached the summit of the tallest peaks of all seven continents including Mt. Everest. He rock climbs, skis, completed the Leadville 100-mile bike race, competed in several adventure races including the TV show "Expedition Impossible" and is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame; all while being blind.
"He's an extraordinary man who defines resiliency. Before we deploy to Afghanistan, I invited him speak to us," said Lt. Col. Scott Fitzgerald, commander, 109th MI Bn.
Weihenmayer spoke about the value of teamwork leadership, and overcoming adversity.
"I've known him since we went to high school together nearly 29 years ago. I've watched him wrestle, he's a very impressive athlete and he's taken his drive and determination to another level," Fitzgerald said.
A middle school teacher before he started on a life of adventure, Weihenmayer now helps Soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan to get to the top of some of the tallest peaks in the world through his Soldiers to Summits program.
"When I took on my first summit, Mt. McKinley, I'd never done something so physically demanding, mentally demanding, something that had asked so much of myself." Weihenmayer said.
In books that he's written, Weihenmayer says that people may fall into the unfortunate category of quitters; many are "campers," that get to a certain point, achieve a goal and are satisfied, and then there are those that fall into a third category.
"People I call 'climbers' are a rare and unique group who figure out a way to challenge themselves, innovate, evolve all of their lives; a question I ask myself every day is how do I climb?" Weihenmayer said.
"I also think of a summit as that moment when we realize how important our lives are, and that we can contribute to something extraordinary."
Weihenmayer also founded the No Barriers organization which helps link innovative technologies with disabled people to improve their lives, greatly enhancing the possibilities to give them an active lifestyle and pursue the desire for adventure.
With stories both funny and inspiring from his life, Weihenmayer related his experiences to challenges that Soldiers often face. He closed with his thoughts on teamwork and leadership.
"I think we lead best leading by example, and let leadership exude by every decision every action. The people around follow because they feel it. It's contagious, and it gives other people courage to do great things."