News: Team Falcons trounces Tough Mudders Course
Story by Maj. Penny Zamora
SENECA, Ill. - Through 12 miles of mud and more than 20 obstacles including an iced water-filled dumpster, jumping over fire, to a muddy-watered low-crawl pit with dangling wires, seven soldiers and several family members from the 157th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, conquered the Tough Mudder competition in Seneca, Ill.
The Tough Mudder Challenge, designed by British Special Forces and held worldwide, is quite possibly one of the world’s most challenging obstacle course testing all-around strength, stamina, and perseverance, while encouraging camaraderie.
“It’s always good to have fellow brothers and sisters-in-arms to encourage you. Motivation comes from within you and is absorbed from others are around you,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James Kilpatrick, command sergeant major of the 1-345th Engineer Battalion, 157th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East.
At the beginning of the course, several hundred “Mudders” lined up at the start line to recite the pledge:
“As a Tough Mudder I pledge that…
- I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
- I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.
- I do not whine – kids whine.
- I help my fellow mudders complete the course.
- I overcome all fears.
“When I recited the Tough Mudder pledge that included, ‘I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time,’ it dawned on me that Tough Mudder was more about working together with thousands of others to accomplish a goal. After reciting the pledge, the National Anthem played, and chills went up my spine. I could hardly contain the tears welling up in my eyes - pride in being a soldier, an American and part of a team,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Leardi, commander of the 2-289th Field Artillery Battalion, 157th Inf Bde, First Army Division East.
The horn blasted, and the first wave erupted from the starting chute, charging up and over an eight-foot wall. Immediately people started helping each other. The next wave of mudders began in 20 minutes.
Cheered on by spectators at the next challenge, the mudders plunged into a teeth-chattering, bitter-cold pit of iced water.
“It was so cold, it took my breath away,” said Stephanie Zeigler, wife of Lt. Col. John Zeigler, deputy commanding officer of the 157th Inf Bde, First Army Division East.
Things warmed up as the group moved to the “Electric Eel” obstacle. The soldiers seemed to have the advantage while low crawling through a muddy water pit. With their heads down and legs pumping, the Falcon Brigade soldiers seemed oblivious amid shouts and screams of those shocked.
“One did zap me, but I put my face in the mud, kept on moving and didn’t get hit again,” said Capt. Rod Richardson, legal officer for the 157th Inf Bde, First Army Division East
The team met at the end of electric eel and moved out as a group.
“Most race events focus on individual time, but team events like the Tough Mudder reinforce an important message that I believe is critical to any organization…individuals can accomplish much, but teams can accomplish more,” said Leardi.
Just like training soldiers for mobilization, planning and preparation are key but it truly boils down to working together to make things happen, added Leardi.
“This event was great because our team truly pulled together throughout the race. We began Tough Mudder with the primary goal of staying together and completing it as a group. Everyone had a partner with them throughout the race and helped others on the team over, under, and through many of the obstacles,” said Zeigler.
As the course continued into the fifth, sixth and seventh miles, groups began to slow and spread out.
“Comparing the Tough Mudder to Army training, it was not as difficult as some training that I have completed, but for a four-hour event, it smoked me up pretty good. It tested me both mentally and physically along with using all my muscle groups and the added environment of mud,” said Rickie Johanningsmeier retired Army master sergeant and the 157th Inf Bde safety officer.
“I would say the Tough Mudder reminded me and took me back to my Air Assault, Sapper and Ranger Course obstacle course days. The Mudder made going though more fun, which influenced you have more self motivation,” said Kilpatrick.
With the finish line just in sight, the mudders lined up to complete the last obstacle, “Electroshock Therapy”. Each mudder sprinted 20 meters through mud peppered with hay bale obstacles and a curtain of electric wires.
Driving through the pain and exhaustion, each mudder crossed the finish line amid boisterous cheers and a sense of great accomplishment.
Team Falcon attributed their success in finishing the race to the Army.
“Most soldiers have enough physical ability and mental focus to complete the challenge. The hard part is committing to a date and showing up. Pushing yourself beyond normal expectations is something we should all strive for in every aspect of life,” said Zeigler.
Johanningsmeier suggested to be prepared, both mentally and physically.