By Sgt. Scott KimApril 21, 2009
CAMP HOVEY, Korea -- Life in the Army is steeped with tradition as many of the things Soldiers do today can be traced back to the very beginnings of the military and is a source of pride in this day and age. That's why Soldiers from 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division participated in the Order of the Hoplite in order to earn their 'shields' and keep tradition alive April 9 to 10 at Camps Casey and Hovey.
The event was open to all Soldiers in 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, known as the 'Spartan' Battalion, and covered a variety of warrior tasks designed to push both body and mind to the limit while also encouraging participants to work as a team. Upon completion of the event, Soldiers received a belt buckle in the shape of a Spartan shield.
"We had a physical fitness test at night, learned how to assemble and disassemble a .50 caliber machine gun, had to don our pro-masks in under nine seconds and all this while having to stay up all night," said Pfc. Joseph Lipscombe, military police for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st BSTB, in describing some of the Hoplite events.
The Shield Ride allowed Soldiers to demonstrate their proficiency and expertise both to themselves and the command while undergoing grueling physical conditions. The event was inspired by the training received by ancient Greek, heavy infantryman who were called Hoplites. The Greek Soldiers underwent a rigorous training and education regiment prior to earning their shield and being placed in a Spartan phalanx. The success of the phalanx relied on each member of the team holding their position and protecting the Soldier to their side. The Order of the Hoplite tries to inspire the same feeling in 1BSTB's 'Spartan' Soldiers of belonging to a cohesive, fighting unit.
"(The) main focus is to test Soldiers' knowledge and skills with some of the warrior tasks and battle drills," said Master Sgt. Arthur Grant, battalion operations sergeant major. "It also gives the battalion commander an assessment of Soldiers' war fighting capabilities."
While assessing Soldiers war fighting capabilities was the focus, increasing teamwork and instilling esprit de corps within the unit was also an objective. Soldiers were paired together in small teams, comprised of a variety of ranks and MOS's in order to provide a truly unique and extraordinary experience.
"Motivation will keep you moving," said Pfc. Samantha Dirrim, an intelligence analyst for HHC, 1st HBCT. "I was with maintenance guys, and some of their buddies, that already had their shields. (They) were out there at 2 a.m. with their guidon trying to motivate people even though they had to go into work the next day. That was really cool to see."
Along with the belt buckle, Soldiers who pass also receive certain perks over those who have not gone through Hoplite.
"On Thursdays, Soldiers are able to get off at 1300, if there is no mission pending, and every Friday Spartan Shield Holders are allowed to wear their patrol cap around Camp Hovey," said Lt. Col. Richard Creed, commander of 1st BSTB.
The event is conducted every six months and is a good way for new Soldiers assigned to the Spartan Battalion to test themselves and for the leadership to assess them.
"It's a great team-building opportunity and the Soldiers feel good about themselves in the end when they earn their shields," Grant said.