Soldier earns coveted AVC3 Iron Aviator title
Capt. Dave Puzzo, A Co., 1st Ba., 145th Avn. Regt, makes his way back to the starting line finishing almost a full 10 minutes ahead of his closest competitor in the ruck run portion of the Iron Aviator competition.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Soldiers of A Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, gathered on Fort Rucker to compete in the Aviation Captain's Career Course Iron Aviator competition Jan. 6.

Capt. Dave Winchell, of A Co., 1st Ba., 145th Avn. Regt., took the title of Iron Aviator by finishing the competition with the quickest individual time of 1:56:07.

"It feels like a fluke that I won the competition," he said. "I just had an unusually good day."

Winchell spoke of Capt. Anthony L. Marston, officer in charge of the competition, as being his motivation to win.

"The one thing that kept me going was hearing the words of encouragement and seeing the look of approval on Captain Marston's face every time I reached the finish line to start the next event," he said.

"The Iron Aviator competition is the premier event for Aviation, pitting technically and tactically proficient officers against each other," said Marston. "It's a test of will and courage."

The competition consists of four events in which teams or individuals must complete: the ruck run, mountain biking, running and swimming, respectively.
"Each team within the class was required to provide a competition team and those that wished to participate individually did so voluntarily," said Marston. "The remaining students participated as pit crew members that assisted in preparing the participants for transitions and pacing between events."

There were six teams of four and seven individuals that participated in the competition. In order to win the competition in either the team or individual category, all four events must be completed with the quickest time, according to Marston.

Although Winchell won the title of Iron Aviator, the award for top team went to Team 4 with Capt. Dave Puzzo, team ruck runner, Capt. Jonathan Ryder, team cyclist, Capt. Ryan McQuarrie, team runner and Capt. Robert DeTienne, team swimmer.

Puzzo stood out in the ruck run event, completing the run almost a full 10 minutes ahead of his closest competitor, with a time of 46:48, basically ensuring victory for his team.

"Being the lead-off man, I wanted to do my part for the team; I just wanted to be with the front of the pack," he said. "But soon I was way out front and then my motivation was to give my team the biggest lead possible."

The ruck run portion of the competition requires the participant to complete a 4½-mile run while in full road-march uniform, with full load carrying equipment, an Alice pack and one M-16A2 rifle dummy.

"I was nominated to do the ruck march portion because I am pretty quick and tall," said Puzzo, "so, height was my main advantage and it worked."

"Puzzo's enormous lead was my source of motivation for the race," said McQuarrie. "I tried as hard as I could to minimize the amount of [Puzzo's] lead that I might lose. His lead crushed the motivation of much of the competition."

Awards for the competition were given in three categories. The top team and individual competitor are both recognized with a trophy, a battalion commander's coin, and a comment on their achievement on their Academic Evaluation Report, according to Marston. There is also an award given to recognize the top pit crew.

"The top pit crew team is awarded the Spc. James D. Seigars' Excellence in Crewing Award," said the OIC. "Team 3 won with their Top Gun theme."

Many of the Soldiers expressed how friendly the competition was and the fun they had competing against each other.

"We've had a great group this entire course and it was fun to compete against the other groups in the course," said Puzzo.

"It was the perfect day to be outside and compete and have a good time with all of our classmates," said Ryder. "Winning [the team competition] made a really nice day that much more fun."

Page last updated Thu January 12th, 2012 at 00:00