By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterDecember 14, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Soldiers are only as strong as their weakest link, and one group of Soldiers got a firsthand lesson in teamwork during the A Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment Warrior Challenge Dec. 2.
Thirty-six Soldiers in five different teams braved the cold morning weather to compete in the challenge, which had Soldiers thinking as a unit rather than an individual as they tackled challenges meant to test their combined physical and mental strength.
Throughout the competition, each team had to take part in an Army Physical Fitness Test, traverse the obstacle course at the NCO Academy, push a Humvee uphill and participate in a 4-mile ruck march in full gear.
Although five teams competed, only one team would come out on top as the winner: the orange team, including Pvt. Jacob Bolling, Spc. Christina Contreras, Pfc. Monticello Reynolds, Pvt. Christopher Soule, Pvt. Jeremy Younger and Pvt. Brandon Starling.
"These individuals volunteered for it knowing what they were going to put themselves through," said 1st Sgt. Eric Kahle, 1-13th Avn. Regt. "It takes a lot of mental toughness and physical endurance to do what they did -- you really have to get at it. All 36 in my book are winners. You all have a lot of heart and I appreciate your participation."
To start out the competition, Soldiers took on the Army PFT, which had each Soldier perform a morning run, followed by pushups and sit ups. Following the PFT, the competitors made their way to the NCO Academy where they tackled the obstacle course.
Through the course, each Soldier had to start with a low-crawl event through sand, followed by a reverse climb, tire run, vertical wall climb and rope climb. Immediately after the course, each competitor had to attempt as many pull ups as possible.
It was during this part of the challenge that Contreras had particular difficulty, but with the support of her team, she was able to pull through.
"On the pull ups, I said, 'Sorry team, but I'm not very good -- that's not my (strength),'" she said. "They just told me, 'That's OK, if you can do one, then that's OK.' We just did our best at everything we could."
It was at that point that Contreras said she stopped focusing on how well the other teams were performing and started focusing on her own team.
It was that level of teamwork that helped the orange team get through the remaining portions of the challenge, which consisted of the Humvee push and Ruck March, which for many, like Soule, was one of the toughest parts of the competition.
"As I was failing at the very end, I realized how much I really had to rely on (my team) because I had to actually grab onto their backpacks to keep on moving," he said. "My legs wouldn't take anymore. It showed me basically what it's like to rely on people when you need them the most."
It was that level of teamwork that allowed the team to be able to push through the competition, not with winning in mind, but completing the competition together.
"Despite whatever challenges we faced, there wasn't a moment where we were falling apart as a team," said Reynolds. "That's the key point of teamwork."
"There were events that we didn't feel particularly good about, but that didn't stop us from just having a good time and leaning on each other," added Bolling. "As a unit and as an Army, it's important that you lift each other up and act purely as a unit and take care of those who need to be taken care of."
The team didn't expect to win the competition, but for many of the team members, the outcome was a lesson in life -- to take risks and push through.
"We felt like we were behind throughout the whole competition," said Reynolds. "As long as you just keep your head down and keep moving forward, and you know that your battle buddies are by your side, you can accomplish any goal."
"Everyone should take a risk," added Soule. "When they mentioned this (competition) I thought to myself that I couldn't (compete) because all 300 (Soldiers) are going to do it, but this taught me that you should go for those risks that you think you can't (achieve)."
Each of the winning team members were presented with certificates of achievements, and Kahle said it takes a special Soldier to stand up and compete, and encouraged others to take the opportunity to better themselves through teamwork.
"The next time we do this, and any time you get the opportunity to participate in an event like this, (I challenge) you to go ahead," he said during the presentation. "Get that intestinal fortitude and you do it, because you're going to reap the benefits later and it's going to be something that you're going to be proud of."