FORT BENNING, Ga. - The cadre of "Rock Force" mixed it up again June 25 at their quarterly CSM Physical Fitness Challenge, this time bringing the battle to Main Post. But sweltering summertime conditions made the second installment a much more grueling affair, competitors said.

Eight teams and roughly 40 Soldiers tackled four major phases: 13-mile bicycle ride, 5-mile march and run with 35-pound equipment packs, 100-meter swim in ACUs at Carey Pool and M4 target shoot at Roosevelt Range. The course began and ended at Doughboy Stadium.

The headquarters team - consisting of LTC Thomas Sheehan, 1SG Alan Barton, and CPTs Chad Chapman, Thomas Schlichter and Colin Reutinger - finished in 2 hours, 35 minutes to capture the top spot over the "Wildcats," who posted a time of 2:50. With a 3:14 mark, the command sergeant major and his first sergeants took third.

Turnout for the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, event was slightly larger than the first challenge in March, when the field included seven teams and 35 cadre members.

"Last time was a cakewalk compared to this," said Schlichter, the C Company commander. "This one definitely tested not only your physical but mental abilities."

The groups were staggered at the outset Friday, starting a few minutes apart. Although the command team went off fifth, it was the first to reach the end.

"One of the driving factors to finish early was to beat this humidity," Schlichter said. "When the sun came up, you could definitely feel the effects."

The humidity was 80 percent at the 6:30 a.m. start and temperatures quickly moved into the 90s.

Teams that didn't complete each event collectively were penalized time and points. But merely finishing at all seemed to be the real feat.

When asked about the inaugural challenge's difficulty meter three months ago, 1SG James Litchford, 45, joked that none of the senior NCOs "got up from any event and saw Jesus." He said that image nearly materialized this time around.

The 100-meter swim offered temporary relief from the heat, but Soldiers labored to do the single lap at Carey as ACUs became heavy and waterlogged, leaving some with leg cramps.

"I almost saw Jesus when I got out of the pool," Litchford said, moments after crossing the stadium's finish line. "(1SG Robert Fortenberry, a teammate) told me to stay away from the light. Whew!

"It was a good challenge last time, but this one was a smoker. The heat and humidity played a major factor."

CSM Brian Hamm, the battalion command sergeant major, called the endurance race a "test of wills" and said the setup was more demanding than the first time out.

"It's a sense of accomplishment for these guys," he said. "It was a tough course today, but they'll look back someday and be proud they were able to finish."

The winners each got a $25 gift card, 198th Infantry Brigade and battalion coins, and had their names added to the Command Sergeant Major Quarterly Physical Fitness Award.

Schlichter becomes the only battalion Soldier who appears on the trophy twice. He helped C Company claim the title in March.

"It feels good," he said of the distinction, "but it wasn't me - I was just lucky to be on two great teams."


Champion: Headquarters, 2:35
LTC Thomas Sheehan
CPT Chad Chapman
CPT Thomas Schlichter
CPT Colin Reutinger
1SG Alan Barton

Runner-up: Wildcats, 2:50
1LT Brigg Sturgis
SFC Stephen Daggett
SFC Benjamin Hermann
SSG Drew Jeffers
SSG Nathan Lindemann

Third place: Senior NCOs, 3:14
CSM Brian Hamm (honorary captain)
1SG Perry Meeks
1SG Robert Fortenberry
1SG Muhammad Glass
1SG James Litchford
1SG Erick Ochs