CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Soldiers ran through a gauntlet of challenges March 23 that were designed to test their physical fitness, technical knowledge and ability to work as a team.
Keeping a tight lid on the details, the leadership of Company F, 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, organized the entire event without letting the inner workings get out to the Soldiers in the company.
"This deployment, the guys didn't get to see a whole lot of action," said Capt. David Puzzo, from East Hampton, Conn., a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot and commander of Co. F. "That is a good thing, but at the same time they didn't get a chance to validate all of their training.
"I felt that this was a chance for them to close out the deployment strong and build up a little team camaraderie," added Puzzo.
Each team consisted of five Soldiers who started the event at 5 a.m., with a modified physical fitness test - a combined 300 pushups, 300 sit-ups, 50 pull-ups and a two-mile run. The rest of the challenge was made up of a 12-mile road march, medical procedures, a 100-meter truck push, pulling a teammate 400 meters on a litter, an obstacle course, a stress shoot and calling in an attack weapons team for support, ending with a barbeque in celebration of surviving the day.
"We definitely designed it to be hard and everybody reacts to stress in different ways. Obviously, it is going to push you and it is going to beat you down a little bit," said Puzzo. "I think there was a lot of team work out there and a lot of camaraderie. Some were able to push on and complete it, others were challenged a bit more and were unable to complete the event."
Not wanting to let his team down, Pfc. Dennis White, from Bim, W. Va., a grenadier in Co. F., continued on after he developed a large blister on the bottom of his foot.
"I got a pretty awesome blister on my foot, but we finished still," said White. "It was better after the doc fixed me up, but it still hurt on the four-mile march back.
"The stress shoot was probably my favorite part, I just like to shoot and that is what I am the best at," added White.
During the stress shoot, the Soldiers had to identify the components of four different weapons and assemble them and complete a proper functions check on each weapon. Teamwork was necessary, as the components from all four weapons were mixed together into one container.
"There was no yelling or screaming at anybody," said White. "Everybody just came together as a team and worked real hard and it worked out pretty good."
White's team pushed on through the entire day to become the overall winners for the event.
"Whoever crossed that finish line, I definitely think they were happy to have completed it," said Puzzo; "one, for themselves and, two, for their teammates they were able to support."