Mindset meeting mountains: When a Soldier’s mind powers their will

By Spc. Luis Santiago and Sgt. 1st Class Ashleigh TorresApril 13, 2022

FORT BLISS, Texas - Keeping up in a competition that tests and stresses your strength, endurance and mental toughness takes prep work. For one Army dietitian, being ready to move matters most and that starts in your head.

“It’s a ruck of unknown distance,” said 1st Lt. Cara Adams, outpatient chief of the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital Nutrition Care Clinic at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Her mindset kept her ready for anything. “Waking up in the morning, you just know, ‘secure all my gear.’ I need to just get in the right mindset to push through what might be a four-hour plus ruck march.”

The Regional Health Command-Central's Best Leader Competition, hosted by William Beaumont Army Medical Center, pushed 64 Army leaders to compete in an intense five-day challenge that calls upon its participants to be adaptable, something Adams faced during the tactical foot march event.

The Massachusetts native, now stationed in Missouri, discovered what the westernmost point in Texas had in store for her.

“Distance, terrain, weather and heat,” listed Adams. “The unknown factors definitely puts some anxiety in your mind, but you just gotta have that resiliency to push through and to know that you can finish.”

The desert elements pushed against the competitors during the 15-mile, five hour long event. However, Adams’s mindset pushed her forward.

“The sunrise was a huge distraction; I am not familiar with seeing a lot of mountains, so it was a great set up to be in,” she said. "It's really important to find distractions, especially when you are rucking long distances.”

The distractions paid off.

“Knowing you just put in that good work and some good training. It’s a really good feeling,” Adams said after placing second in the ruck march event. Dropping the 45-pound bag brought relief, a feeling most Soldiers know.

“It comes with a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “So you know, as we talk about in [Army Medical Command] you can’t save lives on the battlefield if you can’t survive the battlefield.”

To be ready takes training and competitions like RHC-C BLC, explained Command Sgt. Maj. John Castillo, Command Sergeant Major of General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.

Castillo says readiness fits directly into the Army’s Operation People First initiative.

“If you’re taking care of your Soldiers, if you’re training them properly, if you’re making sure they are physically, mentally, spiritually ready to go wherever the Army needs them to go; these competitions tie directly into that,” he said. “If you’re pushing them to be ready, that’s People First, to me.”

He says his best Soldiers came to compete against the 12 other commands present, Adams being one of them.

“They understand the significance of testing themselves,” he said about his Soldiers, and added, “I’m extremely proud,” of Adams placing second ahead of 62 other leaders.

The competition winners will represent RHC-C at the Army’s Medical Command Best Leader Competition taking place in June of this year with hopes of becoming the Army’s Soldier or Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.