Soldiers Find Place In Regimental History
October 14, 2011
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- For some, it's about proving their ability to master Soldier skills. For others, it's about team building. But for all of the members of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, completing the "Gimlet Challenge" is a journey to finding their true place among their Royal Gimlet Clan brothers.
The Royal Gimlet Clan is made up of members of the 21st Inf. Regt. that have completed the "Gimlet Challenge" and earned the right to carry the "Gimlet Stick."
The "Gimlet Stick," recognized by the Department of Heraldry as a part of the uniform while serving in the 21st Inf. Regt., was once used to bore directly into solid rock in order to place explosives and demolish large rocks, and even sometimes sides of mountains, to make way for roads and railroads. Today, it represents membership in the Royal Gimlet Clan. The Clan earned their nickname, "Gimlets" because its members are tougher than rocks and bore through their opponents, according to regimental history.
The "Gimlet Challenge" is a physical, mental and emotional test which all Soldiers of the 21st Inf. Regt. must complete before they are considered members of the Clan. The challenge was made up of approximately 10 events to include providing first aid to a casualty, completing a grenade training range, crossing a body of water and demonstrating knowledge of regimental history, all while reacting to changing conditions on a 12-mile course.
This challenge was originally used as a rite of passage, but has turned into a productive way to build teamwork and camaraderie among Soldiers, especially after returning from deployment.
"Their experience as a small team while going through this is absolutely crucial during the reset period," said 1st Lt. Scott Guo, the officer in charge of the "Gimlet Challenge." "It's when we begin to build our small units, starting with basic fire teams."
Soldiers who had yet to be inducted into the Clan were broken up into more than 30 teams of three to five Soldiers.Team 28 prepared to embark on its journey into Clan history. Sgt. 1st Class Emmanual Nieves was the non-commissioned officer in charge of the team comprised of himself and three other Soldiers from Alpha Company, 1-21 Inf. Regt. Spc. Joshua Hererra, Spc. Coady Stanbery and Pvt. Justin Young had all trained for this and were ready to prove themselves worthy of carrying the prized "Gimlet Stick".
They began their challenge with a 4.5-mile trek to the first checkpoint, where their ability to provide first aid was put to the test.
The team arrived at the checkpoint to pained screams for help. Spc. Justin Fireshaker, of Alpha Company had a simulated injury to his right arm, which the team had to properly treat.
This exercise was intended to ensure that Soldiers could execute basic lifesaving techniques to successfully treat their fellow Soldiers under battlefield conditions when they deploy, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Coates, the NCOIC of the first aid lane.
Nieves immediately took control of the situation by directing the Soldiers of his team to assess the casualty, dress the wound with an Israeli Trauma Bandage and use a Combat Application Tourniquet to prevent further blood loss.
"The team performed well, they assessed the casualty and they applied the dressing and tourniquet properly," said Spc. Gary Bennett, the evaluator for the first aid event.
By successfully completing their first task, these Soldiers were one step closer to their goal. After approximately six miles and additional obstacles the team took part in an explosive experience navigating their way through the grenade evaluation lane.
The Soldiers do not typically get a lot of hands-on training time with grenades, said Sergeant Angel Velez, NCOIC of the grenade exercise. With grenades being part of the Expert Infantryman Badge testing it is important that the Soldiers are given ample training time with them.
The team was broken down individually between four stations: a 35 meter throw, a 20 meter trench throw, putting a grenade into a bunker at close range and being able to identify five different types of hand grenades.
By the time they completed one more event, locating a target by shifting from a known point and radio operating procedures, they had passed many of their fellow teams, and moved into the top five.
Their next major task was to cross 25 meters of water by constructing a raft from their ponchos to transport their gear and weapons safely and effectively. As they arrived at Richardson Pool they were greeted with water hoses to remove the dirt, sweat and stains that covered their uniforms before heading into the pool.
Ensuring that the raft is built in accordance with the ranger handbook will ensure their gear is functional after they cross, said Staff Sgt. Michael Condit, the NCOIC of the raft event.
Team 28 immediately went to work, unpacking boot laces and ponchos from their bags. Before long, their gear was laid out on the ponchos and they tied them tightly closed.
Water splashed all around the team as they and their raft entered the water. They fought against the weight of their boots and uniform as they struggled to keep afloat and cross the 25 meter stretch.
Once across they moved to the medics at the end of the pool. With the amount of distance they have covered, and the distance they still had before them, it was important to ensure they were still healthy enough to compete.
After the team had completed a majority of the challenges, the cadre informed them that their leader had just been injured and could no longer carry his gear or walk. As the team redistributed his load, Nieves climbed onto the nearest Soldier's back and the team headed to the next point.
The difficulty was apparent. The Soldiers had to transfer Nieves every few hundred yards to keep up their pace, moving him from one Soldier's back to the next.
A look of relief could be seen in the Soldiers' eyes as they saw the final objectives a few hundred meters away, but their challenge wasn't over yet. Now their knowledge of battalion and regimental history would be tested.
"It's important the Soldiers within the battalion know where they come from and what they're about," said Staff Sgt. Keelan Finnigan, NCOIC of the battalion history event.
The team began answering rapid fire questions. They knew some, but not all of the answers. They would have to make up for those questions that went unanswered.
As a large log was placed upon their chests and they struggled to lower and raise it in a sit-up like fashion as quickly as possible, they could see the final event from where they were: the M240B, medium machine gun station.
The team only had only minutes to clear the weapon of any ammunition, disassemble the weapon, sort the parts, reassemble the weapon and complete a functions check to verify it was in proper working order.
The team was able to perform this task flawlessly and well under the allotted time. They were in the final stretch.
Their gear was on and their spirits were high as they moved quickly back to the starting point, less than a mile away.
Cheering, clapping and smiles all around as the members of team 28 approached the finish line. With a final time of four hours and 49 minutes the team that started 28th early in the morning had finished 3rd in the "Gimlet Challenge". Now they could rest, change their uniforms, and prepare for the long awaited ceremony. They would soon be inducted into the Royal Gimlet Clan.
There was a sense of pride and accomplishment in the room as veterans of the battalion welcomed the new inductees into the Royal Gimlet Clan. They had earned the right to wear the coveted "Gimlet Stick." The company commander personally handed each Soldier their "Gimlet Stick" for completing the challenge. They are no longer simply Soldiers in the Gimlet battalion; they are members of the Royal Gimlet Clan. They too, are tougher than rocks and can bore through anything. They are Gimlets.