Experience prevailed during the Noncommissioned Officer Academy\'s Iron Squad Challenge July 21. Thirty students pushed their bodies to the limit, but six Soldiers from the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairers Advanced NCO Course (ANCOC) beat out the competition.

After the grueling four hour, six-event competition, NCO Academy Commandant Command Sgt. Maj. Marlin Smith presented certificates and coins to the winning team.

"The old guys keep winning," Smith said, laughing. "Youthfulness and exuberance are no match for tenacity." The challenge included various physical tests including a road march and obstacle course. One of the members of the winning team, Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Skinner, said it felt great to win, but the road march was the most difficult event for the team.

"We worked together and never argued and we just took turns pushing each other to get through it," he said. "We worked hard and we just wanted to put the competition behind us. We just focused on pure energy because none of us wanted to lose to anyone else."

The Iron Squad Challenge is the culminating event for NCO Academy students, according to 1st Sgt. Michael McGee. The five teams were comprised of Advanced and Basic NCO Course (BNCOC) students from four different military occupational specialties. "This is a very demanding competition, especially with the heat," McGee said.

"The ruck march was the hardest (event) for me when I went through ANCOC." Staff Sgt. Apelila Paresa, the event noncommissioned officer-in-charge, agreed. "A lot of bragging rights are on the line," she said. The competition began with two timed events in which each competitor performed as many pushups and sit-ups as he or she could complete in one minute. The totals were tallied up and combined. A 4.3-mile road march around Beaver Lake followed.

Each competitor carried a 35-pound rucksack and teams were required to hold a rope to keep them together, according to Paresa. "This event tests the teams' cohesion," she said. The students then marched to the post softball fields to compete in timed litter relay. Each team was required to make a combat litter out of two battle dress uniform tops and two poles, and carry their "casualty" around two cones. Pull-ups were the next challenge for the Soldiers.

Whether they completed one or more than 20, the competitors' teammates cheered on their tired peers. After pushing their aching muscles for almost four hours, students ended the demanding event by completing an obstacle course. "This event is a good way to wrap up the course," McGee said.