SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — Leaders from across 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division tested their strength and stamina during the Bronco Brigade’s Mungadai challenge, Jan. 24-27 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
The term Mungadai is believed to have roots to Genghis Khan, when the Mongol leader used a series of physical challenges to separate his most elite warriors from the rank and file. Only those that remained standing after the arduous training cycle earned the right to join the vanguard.
Today, Army units from across the globe often use Mungadai as a rite of passage to strengthen bonds and test the mettle of the Soldiers within their organizations. The events and duration often vary between units, but they always reflect the commander’s vision.
“The purpose of the Bronco Mungadai was to come together as leaders and build a more cohesive team,” said Col. Josh Bookout, 3IBCT commander. “These opportunities rarely transpire organically, so it’s important to make time for them. I know that when you experience shared hardships teams become closer, and that’s what this was all about.”
In total, more than 85 leaders participated from across the brigade. The sight of nearly all company command teams, battalion command teams, the brigade command team, and the senior officer and enlisted Soldier from each brigade staff section was a testament to the level of importance for all to see.
Equally impressive was the approximate 200 staff and cadre that planned and enabled the Mungadai across the island of Oahu. From the Soldiers that maintain daily life support requirements to the noncommissioned officers and junior officers that walked the lanes with each team revealed the level of planning and preparation that occurred.
“I’m really pleased with how everything came together,” said Capt. Anshu Bedi, the lead planner for Mungadai. “It was a complete team effort and so many people throughout the brigade stepped up to ensure the success of the event.”
Leaders arrived at 5 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 24 and were divided into teams before inspecting their equipment and departing for their first training event.
Upon arriving to the 25th Infantry Division’s Lightning Academy, the leaders moved through three different stations where the teams practiced different knot tying techniques, learned best practices for tracking and stalking in the jungle and fast roped from either a 15 or 40-foot platform.
The next training event saw each team navigate the Lightning Academy’s Green Mile while wearing their fighting load carrier along with their rucksacks. The grueling course hugs the sloping gulches of Oahu’s treacherous landscape and ensures at least knee-high mud for even the most sure-footed Soldier.
Day one ended after each team traversed the land navigation course with points that are best suited to only be found by creatures already living in the jungle. As the night fell, most teams logged more than three miles before returning to the bivouac site.
Day two started with a helicopter ride to Bellows Beach, a picturesque landscape that included the most anticipated event of the entire Mungadai.
For many, it was the first opportunity in their military career to helocast. Helocasting is a light infantry infiltration tactic where Soldiers debark a low-lying helicopter into a body of water before swimming ashore.
“It’s not often S1 personnel get the opportunity to jump out of a helicopter and into the ocean, so the helocast was definitely an awesome experience,” said Maj. Justin Richard, 3IBCT S1. “The beach PT on the other hand was fun, very sandy, but not as awesome.”
When teams were not helocasting, they trained on different expert infantry badge tasks and completed a beach physical training session that included multiple iterations of “sugar cookies.”
Sugar cookies is the act of running into the surf to get completely wet, then rolling around on the beach to coat the entire uniform in sand.
The day concluded with each team digging a machine-gun fighting position within a two-hour time limit. Despite the teams being within a few hundred feet of each other, the soil vastly differed from team-to-team. As the cadre graded each fighting position to standard, the jubilant crowd followed in tow with laughs and commentary on each team’s performance.
On the morning of day three, the leaders were separated into new teams before boarding a CH-47 Chinook and flying to Kahuku Training Area for a new set of challenges.
Upon arriving to KTA, the teams arguably completed their most challenging task, rescuing a simulated downed pilot. Teams were required to litter carry a Soldier just over two miles while wearing their FLC and rucksack.
With the overhead sun beating down, coupled with the long sloping hills, every leader demonstrated their commitment to one another as each team member took turns carrying the litter before they could no longer preserve their grip.
“Carrying a litter for over two miles with rucks was definitely challenging,” said Maj. Chad Taylor, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team operations officer. “But when you experience shared hardships with your brothers and sisters in arms, you can’t help but become closer together.”
Despite the obvious exhaustion emanating from everyone’s face, it was just a quick Meal, Ready-to-Eat before the next event. The teams regrouped and rucked another five plus miles while completing different EIB tasks along the way. Day three was finally over.
The final day of the Mungadai consisted of another foot march to the helicopter extraction point, approximately three miles of more punishing hills all before sunrise.
Upon returning to the 3rd IBCT headquarters at Schofield Barracks, the teams were questioned in typical board fashion on unit history and lineage by the brigade and battalion command teams.
When all the teams completed the board, the Mungadai concluded. A more cohesive group was formed, and each leader earned the privilege to join the vanguard of the Bronco Brigade.