By Staff Sgt. Timothy Hughes, 75th Fires Brigade PAOJuly 11, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Soldiers and five U.S. Military Academy cadets currently assigned to 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery participated in the Copperhead Challenge June 2-3 here.
The challenge tested Soldiers' ability to carry a 40-pound ruck sack while walking an 11.7 miles route, which featured 10 Warrior Task and Battle Drills stations and two artillery-oriented training performance and evaluation stations.
"We wanted to train on some Army warrior tasks and MOS specific tasks," said Lt. Col. Mark Krieger Jr., 1-17th FA commander.
Krieger also said the event was a different type of training event that helped the batteries and companies, as well as the whole battalion, enhance esprit de corps among Soldiers.
Nearly an hour before sunset, Soldiers assigned to the "Copperhead Battalion" began to assemble near its headquarters building where they received a safety and course navigation briefing, were inspected for items they were required to travel with, and weighed their ruck sacks.
The 35 four-Soldier teams that participated started the course in two-minute increments. The fastest team on the course finished in 2 hours, 20 minutes. However, that team was not the overall winner of the event as both finishing the course with a good time, as well as how teams performed on graded events, were determining factors in winning.
That honor went to Team 22, which consisted of Spc. Derek Graf, Spc. Eric Jones, Spc. Stuart Rigsby and Capt. Christopher Noll. They finished the event four minutes slower than the fastest team.
"Everyone likes to go fast, fast, fast and they don't like to take the time to stop and do stuff right," said Graf. "Doing it right will save your life in the long run, not doing it quickly."
Although the team faced adversity during the competition, it stuck with its plan and continually tried to maintain a high level of morale.
Noll said as the team traveled from one evaluation station to the next, its members discussed how to perform the next task.
Graf said the team members didn't perform as well as they wanted to at the mission orientation protective posture gear station as well as disassembling and assembling an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon station.
"We stayed motivated because we helped each other the entire way," said Graf.
Throughout the event, the Soldiers had no knowledge of how the other teams were doing.
"We want the Soldiers to apply their warrior ethos," said Capt. Garrison Haning, officer in charge of the event. "We also want them to be able to perform well under pressure."
Soldiers who participated in the challenge were inducted into the "Order of the Copperhead," in recognition of their accomplishments.