CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - Almost overnight, where the desert was previously flat and dry, hills rose up and pits were dug that were later filled with water. A total of 13 obstacles were built, stretching over a four and a half mile course in which teams had to compete for the fastest time.
More than 60 teams with a total of about 300 soldiers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, took part in the Tough Mudder Centurion Challenge hosted by the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion of the Ironhorse Brigade, April 21.
The Tough Mudder Challenge was originally designed by British special forces but caught on in the United States as a fundraising event for the Wounded Warrior Project, said Sunnyvale, Calif., native, 1st. Lt. Kevin Nguyen.
Nguyen is a platoon leader assigned to Company A of the Centurion battalion of the Ironhorse Brigade. He is the officer who introduced the idea of hosting the challenge in Kuwait and was in charge of the planning and execution of the event.
“I think it plays a really big role in boosting morale because it is something that is different. I think this was a chance for [soldiers] to use a different avenue for getting fit but also having fun,” said Nguyen.
Nguyen said that the concept for the Tough Mudder event was introduced four weeks ago, and for the past two weeks, it required the collective teamwork of other companies in the battalion to help make it a reality
It took the combined efforts from soldiers of Company A, the main body who helped with the planning and construction, soldiers of Company C “Sappers," who constructed the hills and water pits, and soldiers of the Centurion’s Headquarters Company who built the incline-decline monkey bars for the course, said Nguyen.
Given the time and resources in Kuwait, Nguyen said that everything turned out well.
Another soldier who was part of the planning said this type of event adds variety to daily activities.
“These battalion events are meant to inspire morale and instill pride for conducting physical challenges [as a team]. Sometimes you hit the mark and sometimes you don’t, but today I really do think we hit the mark,” said 1st. Lt. Bret Beavers, the executive officer of Company A of the Centurion battalion.
Beavers said that this challenge offered many different obstacles which incorporated teamwork, and was not just one event, but “a multifaceted event.”
He added that soldiers enjoyed the event and actually thanked the organizers after they completed the challenge. Beavers is not the only person who believes that the Tough Mudder Challenge was a good morale booster.
“There is a sense of achievement when [soldiers] accomplished the course. I saw many today who hesitated on the rope or the monkey bars. When they made it across, there was achievement on their face and with their team cheering them on, they will have a story that they are going to be able to tell, over and over,” said Detroit, Mich., native, Capt. Kerrie Second, the commander of Company A of the Centurion Battalion.
Second said that this was a good opportunity for soldiers to get away from their everyday duties which can get mundane. She said it served as a chance for them to motivate themselves and their teams.
This was a great way to build camaraderie as a lot of the obstacles required teamwork, said Second.
Even though the course was challenging, muddy and long, everyone and every team did their best.
“The [soldiers] were so motivated. We tried to make an event that lasted an hour long and you’ve got teams finishing the course in 40 minutes. The [teams] came out and owned the course,” Second concluded.
Some soldiers of the Ironhorse Brigade decided to participate in the event to push themselves physically and mentally, or just to be part of a team.
“When the event came to my attention, I wanted to participate to challenge myself and push myself to another level,” said San Antonio, Texas, native, Staff Sgt. Arnold Gonzalez, a chaplain assistant assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop of the Ironhorse Brigade.
Gonzalez said his team was comprised of members who were above the average age of the participating soldiers, but that it only encouraged teamwork.
“I think we did outstanding. We used one main aspect and that was teamwork, and we accomplished it in a good time. We’re not young guys, we were an older team but we accomplished it in 54 minutes,” Gonzalez said
Gonzalez said that even though he thought it was challenging, it was also very fun and that he would do it again if given the choice.
Although Gonzalez participated to challenge himself, others went through the challenge because they just wanted to.
“What inspired me to do it was that I always wanted to do it and what better place to do it than Kuwait,” said Pittsburgh native, Sgt. Joshua Rarick, a signal support specialist assigned to Hammer Troop of the Ironhorse Brigade.
Rarick said the event was great because it was different. He said it incorporated teamwork and proved challenging.
“It wasn’t easy by means, everyone had to push themselves. I thought it was a great activity to do and it was definitely more challenging than I expected,” said Rarick.
Rarick said he would compete in the Tough Mudder again and he also has some advice for those who are considering competing in the Tough Mudder.
“Wear a pair of old ACUs and stay motivated,” Rarick concluded.