By Cpl. Jang Il-hwan, Eighth Army Public Affairs OfficeMay 17, 2016
YONGSAN GARRISION, South Korea - More than 100 service members from the Republic of Korea Army and the U.S. military services participated in the 2016 Mangudai Challenge at Camp Casey, South Korea May 11-13.
The three-day event paired senior-enlisted members of the two militaries in a series of events that tested their physical strength, mental will and leadership capabilities. The 58-hour challenge limited the amount of sleep and food each participant received and forced leaders to overcome language barriers, all skills that have been honed through years of service.
"Mungadai was an exercise to validate what we do as noncommissioned officers or as a senior petty officer," said Command Sgt. Maj. Richard E. Merritt, the senior-ranking enlisted Soldier in the U.S. Eighth Army.
Merritt emphasized the senior leaders who complete the training demonstrate the ability to perform the same actions of younger troops. These thoughts were shared by some of the other participants.
"I wanted to participate to show everyone else that if I can do this, everyone else can do it," said Marine Staff Sgt. Deambre Judice, U.S. Marine Forces - Korea. "I think this exercise helps you build more confidence and builds teamwork with other services."
The most senior members of the three groups assumed the roles of mentors. This allowed them to effectively guide participants through the scenarios presented.
"In this setting, communication is key, safety and hydration are also important," said Command Sgt. Maj. Walter T. Brown, 602nd Aviation Support Battalion. "I try to make sure those are kept as the top priorities."
Mistakes and errors are expected during the training event. This provided learning opportunities for the participants and a chance for the senior mentors to guide those in their charge.
The training was primarily planned and executed by the U.S. Eighth Army, however, this did not prevent ROK soldiers from actively seeking opportunities to contribute their assigned teams' missions.
"First of all, we hope to understand sophisticated military culture of the U.S. Army," said Master Sgt. Jung, Jin-woo, ROK Army 39th Division. "I think participating in this training helps deepen the understanding and relationship between our country and United States."
The Mangudai Challenge draws its origins from 13th Century Mongol warriors and is the brainchild of Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Troxell based the challenge on a Mongol test that deprived its warriors of food and sleep while providing stressful situations to negotiate. He brought the event to Korea when he served as the senior-enlisted member of United States Forces Korea.
This year's Mangudai Challenge has changed little since its inception on the Korean peninsula. Participants, often aged between 30-50 years old, are expected to perform movements on foot over various types of terrain. Movement by helicopter to some of the challenge scenarios is also a part of the event. Minimal time is provided to complete each event.
The final event was an air movement to Yongsan Garrison for the presentation of certificates and a barbecue.
"It feels great (to finish this training), you get sense of accomplishment," said Sgt. 1st Class Pedro Briceno, 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. "In the end, you push yourself and your body to the limit and you know what you are made of."