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    Engineer battalion hosts 6th Klondike



    Story by Sgt. Jeff Daniel 

    211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    SEAGOVILLE, Texas - Three soldiers from the 961st Engineer Battalion, Forward Support Company, crossed the finished line in the ruck march team competition dripping sweat from head to toe as if they had each just showered fully clothed.

    This team, along with four others, was competing in Klondike Derby VI hosted by the 961st Engineer Battalion out of Seagoville, Texas. The winning team would not only have bragging rights but two members of the team would be selected to compete at the brigade-level Best Warrior Competition in March.

    “This event builds esprit de corps,” said Master Sgt. Paul G. Wilson, 961st BN Operations noncommissioned officer in charge who is from Fort Worth, Texas.

    Wilson has the responsibility of putting together the Klondike each year as a way to honor the 961st lineage. The competition originated in Milwaukee, Wis., and was held during the coldest part of the year, which is how it got its name according to Wilson.

    “When the 961st moved to Seagoville in 2010, we wanted to continue the tradition,” said Wilson. “However, we decided to have it in the hottest part of the year.”

    Even though the time of year has changed for the competition, the name was kept to “bring people back to where they came from,” said Wilson.

    The competition not only creates esprit de corps, but fosters a competitive training environment.

    “This is our best warrior competition,” said Command Sgt. Major Adam Brown, 961st command sergeant major who is from Houston.

    “It builds cohesion, not only in the unit but throughout the entire Battalion,” said Brown.

    The first soldier who crossed the finish line for the ruck march competition was Spc. Willie David Kaake, a signal support specialist with the 961st Headquarters Support Company, who hails from Lavon, Texas. Kaake and the two other soldiers on his team all crossed the finish line within seconds of each other.

    “We stuck together as a team," said Kaake, “We didn’t leave a man behind.”

    Kaake explained that he was a last minute fill in for the ruck march as he was already competing in several events.

    The competition promotes basic soldier skills and provides unbeatable experiences, according to Brown.

    Wilson added that the tactical and technical skills are promoted as the competition grooms soldiers for the best warrior competition.

    “I feel trust in these soldiers, that they have the skills to get me home,” said Staff Sgt. Ken D. McCann, 961st HSC Medical Section noncommissioned officer in charge.

    McCann’s section ran the medical lane during the competition.

    “This year we tried to make it as realistic as possible by using a moulage kit,” said McCann. “It added to the stressfulness.”

    McCann explained that moulage kits create realistic wounds so that the soldiers could be graded in a more realistic environment.

    “Everyone wants bragging rights and we want to instill that,” said Wilson. “Competing against each other only makes us better.”

    The 721st Engineer Company out of Grand Prairie, Texas, took top honors this year.

    Sgt. Jonathan P. Douglass, supply noncommissioned officer and team leader with the 721st who hails from Little Elm, Texas, explained that one of the team members could not make it at the last minute.

    “We adapted well,” said Douglass.

    “This definitely gave us a sense of accomplishment and pride,” Douglass continued. “We were able to get of sense of the areas for improvement and accelerate what we did well.”

    “I do the best I can, in the hopes that something better might come of it,” Kaake concluded.

    The 961st Engineer Battalion commander Lt. Col. Rolando Rodriguez took command a year ago with a ceremony held the same weekend as Klondike Derby V. His vantage point after a year gives him a unique perspective.

    “These soldiers worked as a team, were highly motivated in this competition. From the physical fitness competition, the uniform inspection, the weapons range to the ruck sack march, they represented the battalion well,” said Rodriguez

    The commander was especially impressed by one team that, after completing the ruck sack march ahead of another team, motivated fellow soldiers to complete the competition and improve their time.

    In addition, during the formation of soldiers and awards ceremony, Rodriguez asked his troops: “How many winners do we have here?”

    “Everyone,” the soldiers enthusiastically shouted.



    Date Taken: 09.15.2013
    Date Posted: 09.17.2013 00:37
    Story ID: 113749
    Location: SEAGOVILLE, TX, US 
    Hometown: FORT WORTH, TX, US
    Hometown: HOUSTON, TX, US
    Hometown: LAVON, TX, US
    Hometown: LITTLE ELM, TX, US

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    Engineer battalion hosts 6th Klondike