JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, WA -- Paratroopers from the Group Support Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), and student athletes from the St. Francis of Cabrini School's cross-country team spent the day together in a team building exercise called Operation Private. The team, from Lakewood, Wa., met with the Paratroopers on the 1st SFG (A) Compound at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Oct. 11, for the modified Army training experience.
The event was organized to provide the student athletes with a memorable experience and build the relationship with the partnering community.
"Community is an integral part of our identity and the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) community is the strongest military community you'll find," said Capt. Jessica Kent, the GSB, 1st SFG (A) assistant operations officer. "Part of what makes our community thrive is our ability to foster relationships outside the base."
The athletes, ranging in age from 6 to 13 years old, began with a luncheon in the Gold Star Family room at the unit's Regimental Mess Facility. The RMF doubles as a 1st SFG (A) museum with a variety of historical displays to include a memorial wall honoring the legacy of its fallen Soldiers.
After finishing their lunch and learning about honor and sacrifice, the students assembled in a traditional Army formation and sang cadence while marching to the training area where the team building exercises commenced.
The Soldiers set up four different stations designed to foster teamwork and encourage communication.
In a modified relay race the students worked together pulling a stretcher simulating a medical evacuation where the athletes had to drag one of their teammates through the pit to the other side.
Other events included a water jug relay where students darted back and forth while wrangling awkward jugs of water, and a low-crawl, where the team slithered below simulated barbed wire.
The final event allowed the student athletes to play Paratrooper and don the MC-6 parachute rig with reserve parachute. The combined harness, main and reserve parachutes often outweighed many of the students.
"It felt as heavy as my backpack from school last year," said one of the children.
Kent was pleased with the participation and excited about building an enduring community partnership.
"We're excited to have the opportunity to reach out to such an incredible group of children and continue fostering our community relationships," said Kent.