News: No reward and bugs for dinner
Story by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – It seemed like it was never going to end.
It rained for days. Hypothermia, hunger and exhaustion were daily threats. The bugs never stopped biting.
At first Capt. Nick Albini thought this grueling 70-mile hike through a remote South American jungle would be sort of a “vacation.” But when the 28-year-old combat veteran was dropped off with eight strangers on top of a 9,200-foot mountain in southern Venezuela, he knew it was going to be much tougher than he ever dreamed.
“I ate bugs for eight days straight without eating any meat – insects, worms, grasshoppers, spiders, grub worms, scorpions…” he said, explaining how he lost 30 pounds in just a few weeks during the adventure.
Albini, a member of the Florida Army National Guard’s 83rd Troop Command, is one of the stars of the new Discovery Channel series “Out of the Wild: Venezuela,” which premiered Feb. 17. The reality show – filmed last year near the Brazil-Venezuela border – features nine ordinary people struggling to survive in the wilderness with only their clothes and a few basic supplies. The nine Americans who volunteered for the challenge had varied professional backgrounds including healthcare and journalism; Albini was the only military member.
Albini was transitioning from the active duty Army to the National Guard when he volunteered for the show, and thought his U.S. Army Ranger training and combat experience from Iraq would give him an advantage.
“I thought, ‘I’ve done some hard stuff; this is not really going to be that hard,’” Albini, a resident of Tarpon Springs, Fla., said. “I was excited! It was almost like vacation ... But then it got so real, so fast. It was real survival.”
When he was dropped off with the other volunteers on top of Mt. Roraima – miles from civilization – and instructed to hike 70 miles through wild backcountry, Albini felt like there was pressure on him to succeed because he was the only military person.
He said at first he became frustrated because no one wanted to be told what to do, but as the days went by his navigation and survival skills gave him an advantage that others started to notice.
“It wasn’t enough just to tell people your qualifications, you had to start showing them … it was a test,” he said.
The Florida Guardsman said that his Army training really started to pay off as the show progressed, and he thinks many Soldiers take for granted the basic survival skills they learn. He said that just being able to read a map or build a simple shelter is something many civilians never learn, and he was able to reach into his “bag of Army tricks” during the taping to help the team make it through the austere jungle.
Although Albini wouldn’t disclose who completed the challenge, he said the show is definitely not like other “reality shows” where people are just competing against each other for notoriety or fame.
“It’s a really pure experience,” he explained. “There is no ‘showboating,’ there is no sense of being famous on there. There was no reward for anything. It was really me seeing if I could get through it.”
To see how the National Guardsman fares during the Venezuelan-experience, check out new episodes of “Out of the Wild: Venezuela” on the Discovery Channel each Thursday at 10 p.m. To learn more about the show, and see video clips of the show, visit the Discovery Channel’s website at: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/out-of-the-wild-venezuela/about-show.html.