News: The Desert Rogue in the Arena
Story by Sgt. Richard Wrigley
FORT STEWART, Ga. - “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat,” said former President Theodore Roosevelt during his speech at the Sorbonne, in Paris, April 23, 1910.
It is also the final words that Lt. Col. Sean Kuester, a native of Charlotte, N.C., and the commander of the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment “Desert Rogues,” 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, often leaves with his troops after the heavy competition of one of the bouts for the coveted Desert Rogues’ Commander’s Cup.
The Desert Rogues’ Commander’s Cup program is a competition established by the Rouge’s commander that consists of many events held throughout the year which all the companies within the battalion compete in. As time goes on the points each company does or does not earn are tallied up, and at the end of the term the company with the most points will receive the coveted “Commander’s Cup.”
Kuester started the Rogues’ Commander’s Cup Program less than a week into the start of his command, with a push-up contest conducted during his in-briefing to the battalion, Feb. 26, 2013.
“I just came up with the idea, the team put it into place,” said Kuester.
The commander’s intent for establishing the yearlong competition was three-fold. He wanted to establish a program that developed esprit de corps and unit pride through competition as well as display the strength-of-will found in the Desert Rogues.
“For starters, competition breeds pride, and we need to be a proud unit,” said Kuester. “Also, I’m tired of hearing about how the youth of America doesn’t have the competitive edge or will to dominate anymore … I want the Soldiers to have the opportunity to prove to themselves and to the world that this is by no means the case.”
Cpl. Joseph Thacker, a native of Covington, La., and a team leader within Company A, 1-64th AR, agrees with this assessment, and with his boots-on-the-ground experience, has also seen another added benefit to the competition, and that is increased mission success.
“It was great to bring this competition to the battalion. The result is people are performing better and subsequently doing better at their job,” said Thacker.
In order to accomplish all of this, the Commander’s Cup challenge has consisted of many varied and challenging events.
Over the course of the year the Rogue companies have competed against each other in 14 different events which consisted of a push-up challenge, pull-up challenge, a Command Sergeant Major Crossfit challenge, a Combat focus run, a High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle push, a hotdog eating contest, a King of the Pit challenge, Spartan Stakes, a Homerun Derby, a Golf scramble, a Basketball shootout, a Flag Football tournament, and 4-x-100 and 4-x-400 meter relays.
This is not all though. The year is not over, and the Rogues have many more events in the upcoming months, explained Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Barker, a native of Columbia, S.C., the senior enlisted leader of operations for 1-64th AR, 2nd ABCT.
“Barker is the force behind the fight when it comes to the Commander’s Cup,” Kuester explained.
Having been the driving force behind the planning process and the implementation of most of the events, Barker has had a unique viewpoint of the Commander’s Cup program as he has seen it in all its various stages as it has unfolded.
“The [Commander’s Cup program] has caused a cultural shift within the battalion,” Barker said. “The Commander has brought a unique perspective on how to lift the morale of the soldiers through friendly competition.”
The benefits of the program don’t just stop there according to Barker.
“It has built camaraderie amongst the battalion that wasn’t there previously,” said Barker. “The soldiers are enjoying the events, enjoying the chance to compete against their peers, and morale has never been higher.”
The plan is to continue the friendly competition and to culminate the years efforts in a celebration on January 13, 2014, the anniversary of the day the battalion was constituted in 1941. The Commander’s Cup will then be awarded to the winning Company in honor of 1st Lt. William E. Hannah and Technician 5th Class Samuel Berry, the first Rogues to be killed in action during World War II.
This will not only recognize and reward the hard efforts of the Soldiers, but also reconnect the soldiers with their lineage, explained Kuester.
Who will be the winning company recognized in January?
Only time and the competitive spirit within the Desert Rogues will tell. The competition has been a close one, and looks to stay that way to the end. Currently Company A has just taken the lead from the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and apparently has no intentions of stepping down anytime soon.
“We have the lead now, we are going to keep it,” Thacker said.
But as you look at the battalion as a whole, and see how the unit is full of energy, with high morale and sense of self worth, you can see that the Commander’s Cup is truly about more than just winning.
“We do this to keep the edge sharp, and to demonstrate the warrior spirit is alive and well in the American soldier,” Kuester said.