MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Officers and senior noncommissioned officers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, participated in Operation Krypteia on Sept. 6.

Operation Krypteia was a teambuilding and morale event centered on innovation, adaptability, physical resiliency and commitment to the team.

Historically, young Spartans who successfully completed their training at the agoge were marked as potential future leaders and would be given the opportunity to test their skills and prove themselves worthy of serving in the Spartan military through participation in the Krypteia. Keeping with Spartan traditions, Soldiers of the brigade set out to push themselves by proving their mental and physical toughness.

"This event was designed as a physical manifestation of the pillars of the division," Col. John Reynolds II, 1st ABCT commander, said. "The will to win, the desire to succeed and the urge to reach your potential -- these are the keys that will unlock your personal and professional excellence. BRO Soldiers are complete Soldiers."

Three hours before most Soldiers woke up for their morning physical training, leaders of America's First Brigade assembled on the field behind their headquarters where Capt. Brandon Gillis, the brigade assistant fire support officer, set the scene with the unit's storied history and delivered initial instruction to the random teams formed before boarding the buses to rural Manhattan.

They arrived two hours later, bewildered and confused, on a dirt road on the outskirts of Manhattan.
Capt. Robert Moore, brigade planner, set the scene as he talked about the 16th Infantry's mission to assault Omaha Beach to reduce the German defenses, and proceed with all possible speed to seize and secure the objective two hours before dark.

In honor of those valiant Soldiers, Reynolds and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Kiefer, the brigade's senior noncommissioned officer, led the participants on a six-and-a-half-mile road march from the bus drop-off point to the line of departure for Operation Krypteia.

Once the Soldiers arrived at the command post, 1st Lt. Mario Rey, combat operation lasing team platoon leader, recounted the battle of Normandy and how it was strategically divided into three parts where 1st ABCT lead the way.

The participants were divided into eight teams and told to rotate among eight different stations. Before departing, the teams were each given their supplies for the day: a packet that included a compass, protractor, 1/25,000 map, communication card with emergency contacts and one individual radio with a spare battery.

"You and your team are expected to think critically under conditions of little guidance," Rey told the Soldiers. "You have 30 minutes to get to your next station and your time starts now."

During the next eight hours, teams walked more than six miles up and down hills to different stations that combined various physical and mental challenges with historical information about Medal of Honor recipients from the brigade and division and battles that defined it.

"This was a good event," 1st Sgt. Tony Reese, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st ABCT, said. "It tested some of the leaders' intestinal fortitude."

In one such event, teams were tasked to construct a one-rope bridge, which demanded aggressive teamwork and critical thinking, to get all Soldiers and their equipment safely to their objective.

"It was important to work as a team and to rely on the other people's strong points to get through each event," Maj. Jenevieve Murphy, brigade staff judge advocate, said. "I thought it was a good team-building event that made our unit more cohesive."

At the conclusion of the day, teams gathered -- exhausted, but not defeated -- in a small historical grove on the Kansas prairie.

In the shadow of a stone farmhouse built in 1864, leaders of America's First Brigade changed into traditional cavalry shirts and dress blue pants for a formal dinner and ceremony.

Festivities began with a speech by Reynolds about how the French and British militaries called upon the brigade to help win World War I and how America's First Brigade set sail across the ocean to answer its allies' call.

He spoke of ancient times and how men of war would bring planks of wood to secure passage and invest in the foundation of the units sailing to meet their nation's enemies.

As a symbol of the foundation of America's First Brigade, a wooden plank awaited each leader at their table.

Leaders were then called forward, table by table, to receive numbered coins made just for Operation Krypteia.

Following hours of food, music, drinks and camaraderie under the starry skies, Reynolds concluded the evening with this thought: "We are the Army. Our shirts are rankless, because we are all equal plank holders in America's First Brigade and brothers and sisters in the 'Big Red One.' Enjoy your evening. I'm honored to be among you."