FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – On Friday, September 21, the officers and senior non-commissioned officers of the Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division took a break from answering emails, returning phone calls, sitting through meetings, and the repetitive day to day business of running a Stryker brigade to spend a grueling eight hours running, crawling, marching, climbing, and even swimming in a competitive event aptly christened Operation Tour de Hell.
Most of the participants in the event hold staff, command, or operations positions, meaning the majority of their time is spent behind a desk.
“If it wasn’t for this I’d be sitting in front of a computer all day,” Capt. Angela Chipman, the brigade civil affairs officer said. “This is a great opportunity to get out, interact, joke around, and have some fun.”
“This is the first time since getting back from deployment I’ve really gotten out of the office,” Master Sgt. Lamont Williams, the brigade S4 NCOIC said. “I usually spend all day answering emails and giving logistical advice to battalion and company commanders and executive officers.”
The operation started at 6:30 a.m. in front of battalion headquarters when teams competed, to see could do the most pushups and sit ups in a timed event. Then they shouldered their ruck sacks and started an eight mile foot march with various events along the way that tested their physical endurance and mastery of basic warrior tasks.
“The BTB is a unique organization,” Lt. Col. Michael Braun, commander of the BTB said. “It’s made up of five companies that do entirely different jobs. So this was a great time to come together and get a little mud on the uniform, get a little dirty, a little sweaty, but at the same time have some fun.”
Mud and sweat were a large part of the day as the teams assaulted an obstacle course, flipped tires, and pushed a Humvee, marching across Fort Wainwright from one event to the next.
Interspersed between the physical challenges were basic tasks that all soldiers learn early in their careers including assembling stripped weapons, assembling and operating a radio, and calling for artillery and medevac.
After a short ride in a Chinook helicopter, there were bench presses and an equipment swim at the Melaven Gym then a final sprint back to battalion headquarters.
The participants finished up the day by meeting up for a BBQ.
“The BBQ was what I was really looking forward to…that’s the only reason I did this,” joked Chief Warrant Officer 2 Edgar Enriquez, the Brigade Tactical Operations Officer.
As soldiers gain rank they are frequently moved into positions where their experience can be put to use in the planning and coordinating phase of training events.
This is usually done from behind a desk and in a conference room, well out of the mud and grime where the actual training occurs – a place where many of these soldiers still feel more at home.
Capt. Joshua Withington, commander of the Brigade Headquarters Company, who took a day off of leave to participate in the event, summed up the sentiment that had been expressed repeatedly throughout the day.
“All of us would rather be doing this, out here challenging ourselves and each other, than sitting in the office,” he said.