JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- For more than 11 hours on July 22 the leaders of the 308th Brigade Support Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, faced daunting physical and mental tests during a Mungadai challenge. Then they jumped out of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
Once the name of the elite soldiers of Genghis Khan's Mongol army, today the "Mungadai" is a grueling test of modern-day warriors that offers them a chance to build resiliency and develop agile and adaptive leaders.
"I wanted to go out and challenge our leaders mentally and physically, test their resolve and, most importantly, give them the opportunity to show themselves they have what it takes," said Lt. Col. Mike LaBrecque, the commander of the 308th BSB. "The events weren't easy and they certainly rose to the challenge."
The 17 stations of LaBrecque's leader development event included a 12-mile ruck, medical skills tests, a combat-style stress shoot, a confidence obstacle course and, most dauntingly, a 10-foot helocast from a Chinook into American Lake.
"What a great day for the leaders of the 308th BSB! Everyone performed exceptionally well and I feel honored to be surrounded by Soldiers who are willing to face pain, their fears and adversity with tenacity and courage," said 1st Sgt. Douglas Wilderman, the first sergeant of the 256th Signal Company, 308th BSB and native of Taylor, Michigan.
For the family and friends who turned out to watch the action from dry land a half-mile away, the helocast was the highlight of the event.
"It was one of the most exciting things I have done so far in the Army," said 1st Lt. Paul Kim, an operations officer with the 308th BSB and graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara."
"Looking out the back of the bird, seeing the distance between us and the water and realizing that I was about to jump was incredible. At the time, I could barely believe it was actually happening."
LaBrecque said this event has helped to build a team of warriors and has prepared them for the challenges that lay ahead in their careers.
"We are working as part of larger efforts inside the 17th FAB and 7th Infantry Division to develop confident, competent and engaged leaders who internalize the Army profession and are able to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances on the battlefield," said LaBrecque.
While the spectators came for the helocast, the leaders of the 308th found the day was more than an adrenaline rush brought on by freefall. With more than 22 years in the Army, this is not the first time Wilderman has found himself jumping from a helicopter.
"I believe the shared hardship makes you want to be better for your fellow Soldiers and always be more concerned about the person next to you than you are about yourself. This really brings on a sense of selfless service, a love for your fellow Soldiers, and the drive to do your very best."