Lt. Col. Bob O'Brien
Lt. Col. Bob O'Brien, commander of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, speaks to campers at a J. Robinson intensive wrestling camp July 23 in Minneapolis. The 28-day camp is designed to test the limits of wrestlers ages 14 to 18.

FORT BENNING, Ga. (Aug. 1, 2012) -- Ask Lt. Col. Bob O'Brien, commander of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, what the most difficult thing he's accomplished is, and the answer would be easy -- Ranger School.

Ask him what the most difficult thing was before Ranger School, and the answer is just as easy -- a J. Robinson intensive wrestling camp. O'Brien said it has earned the reputation of being the toughest wrestling camp available since it began under University of Minnesota head wrestling coach J. Robinson and is infamous for awarding a T-shirt with the phrase "I did it" written on the front to each wrestler who completes it.

O'Brien asked the same question to a room full of young wrestlers July 23 at a camp held in Minneapolis and got the same answer.

"Every single person there responded with, 'this camp,'" he said.

The camp inserts wrestlers into a 28-day period of intensive training with no communication with the outside world -- no family, school or social outings, according to the organization's website.

"(J. Robinson) designed it so that the wrestlers have to earn their way to be graduates," O'Brien said. "They can't just attend a camp and say they've graduated."

O'Brien told the wrestlers, all between the ages of 14 and 18, how experiencing the J. Robinson camp allowed him to fight through adversity in several different circumstances in his life, including Ranger School. And not everything depended on physical strength, he said; relaxation, pre-visualization and goal setting, all elements of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program, were essential also.

Using those same tenets, he said, helped earn him a national championship as a skydiver at the U.S. Military Academy.

"I think it can help get anyone through any challenge," he said about CSF-PREP. "It's not something that's solely focused on excellence in sports … but in anything a person desires to be accomplished."

O'Brien went to West Point in 1988 and walked on to the wrestling team. His goal, he told the coach, was to be a national champion. But instead, he got cut from the team.

So he tried another sport and joined the skydiving team, considered a club sport, in 1989. O'Brien said a diver would jump from about 2,500 feet and try to hit "a target about the size of a silver dollar."

"In skydiving, you can only perform a certain amount of jumps throughout the year between the competitions, but you can do them over and over again in your mind," he said. "I worked very hard using performance enhancement during that time."

O'Brien told wrestlers at the J. Robinson camp that if anyone there decided to join the Army, they would be well prepared for just about anything they face in their career -- even Ranger School.

"They were very enthused about the presentation," O'Brien said. "It will give them an advantage over the average student that we get here (at Ranger School). Guys who have gone through this type of training know they can push themselves to do anything."

For more information about the camps, visit

Page last updated Wed August 1st, 2012 at 13:30