Iron Aviator: Captains compete for coveted title
November 1, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 1, 2012) -- In a clash of sweat, dedication and willpower Soldiers from the 12-03 class of the Aviation Captains Career Course competed in the Iron Aviator competition Oct. 24 at Beaver Lake and the Fort Rucker Physical Fitness Facility.
The competition works like a triathlon and pushes Soldiers to their limits, as well as builds camaraderie between the teams, said Maj. Robert Van Dine, A Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment small group leader.
"Iron Aviator is comprised of a 5-mile ruckmarch, a 300-meter swim, an 8-mile bike ride and a 2.3-mile run. The event really brings up the esprit de corps and it is pretty much the culminating event of the course. This is the last time they will come together as a team and compete against each other," he said.
People can compete individually, as a team of four or as a team of two. Students can also choose to be a pit crew member, who dress up in costumes and make signs to help support their teammates.
"We let the Soldiers pick who they want to participate with and we encourage those not taking part in the race to be on a pit crew. They encourage participants by cheering them on and setting up their equipment between events. Most pit crews try to make it fun, so it sort of doubles as a Family day, too," said Van Dine.
Two pit crews were neck-and-neck for winning the Spc. James D. Seigars award and dressed for the occasion. One team wore country-themed costumes while the other wore sailing-themed costumes (complete with boats at the finish line).
The teams agreed that the hardest part of the race was the ruckmarch.
"Because the rain has been so heavy the creek was more of a swamp that they had to cross. Participants had to wade through knee-high mud, 40 yards long," said Van Dine.
Capt. Cory Wroblewski, overall individual winner of the Iron Aviator who is being stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., agreed that the ruck was easily the most difficult event and that he was honored to finish first.
"It was a fun race, everyone put in 100 percent so it feels great winning a race that everyone worked so hard in. Team 9 really supported me. I wanted to really challenge myself and compete as an individual and I am thrilled that I beat out everyone," he said after he completed the course in one hour and 36 minutes.
Team 9, which was split into two groups--Group 1 and Group 2, claimed first place in the group category as well with Group 2.
Capts. Ryan Sommer, Martin Prokoph, Shaun Gaul and Dave Daniels pulled ahead early in the race and held their lead until the end.
"We got our lead during the swim. We were third to finish the ruckmarch, third to get in the pool, first to finish the bike and first to cross the finish line," said Daniels, who will be stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.
The team members were surprised they won because they did not train together beforehand.
"We just wanted to have fun, the fact that we won is amazing. None of us thought we would take the lead and keep it," said Sommer, Team 9 Group 2's leader.
Team 9 members were very proud of their accomplishments they made during the course. The teammates won the classes' Ultimate Frisbee Championship, both the individual and group categories of the Iron Aviator and had the honor graduate, although they did not win the pit crew competition.
"Capt. Joseph Clark really held our team together. We accomplished so much because of his dedication to Team 9," said Wroblewski.
The organizers of the event changed the order of events this time around, and Van Dine said as the course evolves and changes [the organizers] have to make adjustments in order to make it better.
"The swim is usually at the end, but this time we made it the second event. We wanted to make it like a triathlon and the swim is always the second event. Plus, with the swim at the end, participants who are competing as individuals were having a hard time because they were exhausted. The swimming event is much safer now," he said.
Van Dine added that the Iron Aviator builds bonds that will last long after the Soldiers leave Fort Rucker.
"Competitors are teammates, too. They are out there sweating and bleeding together, pushing each other along. Most will stay in touch with each other," he said.
Maj. Sean Keefe spoke to the prospective graduates before the winners were announced.
"When you leave here and go to your next units, remember that it is about the teamwork. Make sure you take charge, and set those standards and conditions," he said before thanking all the Families for coming out and supporting the race.