By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 16, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Before trainees become Soldiers, they go through rigorous training to meet the highest standards, and for one group of advanced individual training Soldiers, they learned a vital Army lesson -- that they can only be as good as their fellow Soldier.
Thirty AIT Soldiers in six teams got the chance to compete in the A Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, AIT Warrior Challenge March 11 -- a competition designed to test the mettle of new recruits, according to Lt. Col. Kevin McHugh, 1st Bn., 13th Avn. Regt. commander.
But this iteration of the challenge focused more on teamwork than individual accomplishment, he added.
"What was unique about this event as opposed to the others … was that today was about the team," said the battalion commander. "Every other [competition in the past] has been an individual event. Today is about teamwork, about professionalism, so it's not just about these Soldiers up front, it's about all of us.
"You all demonstrated excellence today," he said to the competitors. "Just the sheer fact that you guys signed up, volunteered to come do this and completed it is absolutely impressive. This was a team effort today."
The winning team for this year's competition was the green team, which consisted of Pvts. Jalil Debrow, Shayne Cruz, Nathan Gootee, Danielle Letzelter and Shakeel Hackett, all of A Co., 1-13th Avn. Regt.
"It feels great to win and it feels great to be able to do it with a good group, because we all worked as a team and it feels amazing," said Debrow. "Even when we didn't get something right, we looked good doing it as a team."
"We definitely had teamwork. I don't think I've worked with a better group than this," added Letzelter. "Mentally, I thought about that one thing that drives me and I told [my team] to do the same thing. I said that finish line is at the top of that hill and we just have to keep going -- don't stop."
The competitors' day started early with an Army Physical Fitness Test challenge, followed by an obstacle course run and pull-up challenge at the NCO Academy.
Immediately following the obstacle course, competitors made their way to the Beaver Lake trail where a Humvee push was waiting for them, where each team had to work together to push the vehicle up an incline to designated point before embarking on a 4-mile ruck march to the next event.
Each of the Soldiers agreed that the most physically demanding portion of the competition was the last leg of the ruck march when they had to climb a steep hill before reaching their destination, but their support for one another was what made them able to pull through.
"The ruck was definitely the [most physically challenging], and I think the motivation for everyone was the hardest part," said Gootee. "We all kind of picked each other up and we just pushed each other through it."
The capstone of the competition was the leaders reaction course, where the teams' true ability to work together was tested.
Throughout the LRC, each team had an obstacle to overcome in which they had to either traverse aspects of the course with their team and equipment, or both. This required communication between team members.
And although each Soldier was at a different point in their training, that wasn't a dividing factor when it came to teamwork, said Letzelter.
"I feel like I didn't know any of these people before I was in this group and now I feel like we have a bond now," she said.
"I've been here for 18 weeks and I competed in the first warrior challenge, so it feels great to get out and do it again," added Hackett. "It was different than the last time with all of the teamwork, but it was better [working with a team] because if I was falling back they could help me out and if I was weak in something they were strong."
It's that level of teamwork that McHugh said is necessary for Soldiers to become professionals, and is indicative of what the Army stands for.
"What the company is doing today is fantastic … and represents what all of us are trying to aspire to -- trying to become professional Army Soldiers," he said.