By Capt. Jeffery Harris, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division WestJune 10, 2014
FORT HOOD, Texas -- The 479th Field Artillery Brigade held its second Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge on the newly finished obstacle course near Division West headquarters here, recently.
The WAFC goal was to sustain the rigor and camaraderie of a tactical fitness event, while expanding the field of competition to Soldiers, civilians, and family members of 479th.
"This iteration of the Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge had a few twists from the last one. We revamped the obstacle course events and made the ruck march longer," said Capt. Jeffrey Harris, from Sandy, Utah, assistant operations officer, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade. "Also, the incentives were increased and a team concept was introduced. All in all, it's getting better every time we do it! "
One of the key obstacles to successful training is building on past achievements to elevate performance standards and stretch the band of excellence. Furthermore, the scope of our revamped competitive model included individual and team participation, increased incentives, and improved challenges.
The core of the WAFC remained the same, consisting of running over 3-miles in Army Combat Uniform with running shoes, a 5-mile ruck march, and completing the obstacle course for the fastest collective time.
The course for the running event challenged both cardiovascular and mental endurance, as participants negotiated the steep hills, treacherous water crossings, and unimproved terrain of the infamous "Turkey Run" tank trail from the western edge of Fort Hood.
Transition to the ruck march was seamless, occurring immediately when each competitor reached his/her ruck sack, changed from shoes to combat boots, secured 35 pounds of gear, and strapped the load on their backs for a 4.7 mile trek on West Range Road toward East Fort Hood.
"When I considered entering the challenge two months ago. I thought to myself, I'll be good to go physically, but I didn't really train up for it at all," said Sgt. 1st Class Julian Romo, of Los Angeles, Calif., with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 479th Field Artillery Brigade. About a week out it was too late, so I did my best, gave it 110% and was happy with my results of fourth overall."
Participants encountered the first tweaks to the sequel WAFC at the obstacle course, as both landscape and competitive requirements reflected feedback offered after the first WAFC. Competitors wrapped up the ruck march at the newly constructed course near the division headquarters, where they faced six vexing challenges, three that were new from the Inaugural WAFC.
Dawning the advanced combat helmet and improvised outer tactical vest, each participant negotiated the new rope wall climb, vaults and 25-meter brute force pull events, in addition to the sustained 50-meter sled drag, casualty evacuation carry, and culminating 400-meter dash.
Another improvement to the WAFC was the introduction of three person teams competing for the best-averaged completion time. This would add strategy to the event as participants sought to collectively balance talents in pursuit of Brigade and Battalion IMPACT Awards.
The first place winner was Team Steel Rain with 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery Regiment, consisting of Maj. Glen Renfree, executive officer from Sacramento, Calif., Capt. Jeffrey Harris, and Staff Sgt. David Rodriguez from San Antonio, Texas.
Individual competition remained an option for WAFC participants, yet with the upgraded incentive of brigade or battalion IMPACT awards for the top two finishers overall. The individual competition winner was Staff Sgt. William Satchell from Williston, S.C., an operations NCO with 1st Battalion 395th Engineer Regiment, the second place finisher was Romo, from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, and Capt. Lucas Leinberger of Linn, Mo., a logistics officer, 3rd Battalion 393rd Field Artillery took third place.
The pivotal change for the second WAFC was broadening the pool of participation to include 479th Soldiers and civilians. In an effort to extend camaraderie beyond the organization and bolster the WAFC competitive edge, the battalion leveraged operational and advertisement means to promote the event with brigade command endorsed support.
The results were incredibly encouraging, as 14 individuals from 1-395AR, Medical Training Task Force, 2nd Battalion, 381st Combat Support Regiment, and 479th HHB performed admirably in both individual and team competition respectively. Key to the increased emphasis on diversified participation was the courage and tenacity of Ms. Corrie Carbajal of Mandan, N.D., 479th Brigade Command Secretary, to train for and endure the rigors Army tactical fitness.
"It really challenged the intestinal fortitude of all participants and separated those that have "tiny heart" syndrome from those that have the stamina to go the distance. Each event individually is not that challenging, but when you combine them and give it your all you will reach utter exhaustion," said Carbajal. "Completing the Warrior Fitness Challenge as a civilian amongst Soldiers was one of the most satisfying experiences for me since arriving at Fort Hood and I would like to thank 3-393rd Field Artillery for allowing me to compete with the best of the best."