FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) hosts a leadership conference July 25 for the Austin Peay State University's football team at Cole Park Commons Conference Center on Fort Campbell, Ky. The conference provides a unique opportunity for the student-athletes to experience a small part of what it takes to be a 1st BCT, Bastogne, Soldier.
The conference was requested by our partners at Austin Peay, Lt. Col. Tim Sulzner, Rear Detachment Commander, 1st BCT, 101st said. The goal is for the team to experience a little of what it takes to be a Soldier in the 101st, and learn about the Army's standards of discipline that build premier leaders. This experience should allow them to take that knowledge and apply it to their program.
"I think for them to get a glimpse of what it is like to be a Bastogne Air Assault Screaming Eagle for even a small portion of the day - they were all asking, 'Is this something you all really do? How often do you do it?'" Sulzner said. "There was a lot of good feedback about the leadership we provided and the tasks we did. This experience helps us come together, get to know each other better and build that relationship."
The morning began with the team arriving at The Sabalauski Air Assault School. After some instructions, the student-athletes were divided into eight teams and set out to tackle the challenging Air Assault obstacle course.
Some of the challenges included a rope swing, belly over and the very challenging weaver which forced the players to go over and under wooden beams climbing upward then downward.
Following the obstacle course, the players were given a 45 pound Army rucksack and a simulated rifle which they carried on a 3-mile ruck march. On the march, they were challenged further with a variety of team building tasks at stations placed along the route at one-mile intervals. Tasks included moving a golf ball in a zig-zag pattern in short pieces of PVC pipe, a word scramble and maneuvering supplies to the finish line.
After completing the ruck march, the players took a few minutes to get cleaned up before heading to Cole Park Commons Conference Center for lunch with 1st BCT Soldiers.
During the conference Soldiers presented different scenarios for the players to discuss. The Soldiers also shared their experience as leaders to give the players a different perspective on solving leadership challenges.
"We used some vignettes that have scenarios that they may have to face," Sulzner said. "Things like people being late, people not doing their job, people using drugs or a combination of those things and how they are going to react to it as individual leaders on the team."
Among the Austin Peay student-athletes was offensive lineman Kyle Anderton. This was Anderton's second time being at Fort Campbell and he was excited to be here.
"I enjoyed the seminar a lot," Anderton said. "One of the officers I just listened to said that leadership is giving purpose to your Soldiers or to your young guys as a captain. So, I am not going to say stuff just to say stuff."
The obstacle course and ruck march felt purposeful for Anderton. As the team's leader, he focused on keeping the team together and moving in the same direction.
"I just thought it brought a lot of aspects of leadership together," Anderton said. "Not only leading by example but trying to keep the team together. I thought it was just really cool."
"It was an endurance run," Anderton added. "It was more about understanding your objective and not just running off. I think we understand that pretty well. It was the hardest event but it was also the most rewarding."
Among the coaching staff present was Austin Peay's head coach Mark Hudspeth. Hudspeth also took on the challenges of the obstacle course and ruck march with his team.
"It was tough and it was just a small taste of what Soldiers do," Hudspeth said. "So I couldn't image doing everything that they normally do. They are in great shape. Our country is in tremendous shape with our military after seeing it first-hand today. I couldn't be more proud of them."
Hudspeth expressed his gratitude for the partnership Austin Peay and 1st BCT enjoy. He also presented Sulzner with an official Austin Peay football helmet.
"We really appreciate 1st Brigade having us today," Hudspeth said. "After going through their workouts we have a greater respect for what they do because they kicked our tails today. I think we learned a lot from the experience and we appreciate the partnership Fort Campbell has with Austin Peay that allows us to do this."