CAMP SPANN, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP SPANN, Afghanistan - Soldiers with 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and other coalition forces came together to participate in a Croatian ruck-race Aug. 1.
The ruck-run was a five-mile race between teams of three or more. Each team only finished when their last member crossed the finish line.
In addition, every participant carried 45 pounds of equipment with them by way of a fully packed rucksack or body armor.
“It’s based on a military theory for commandos,” said Spc. Dennis L. White, a Bim, W.Va., native, now a 240B machine-gunner with Command Security Detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “When [Croatian commandos] do sabotage operations, they have one hour to get five miles away from the objective point.”
Teams from all over the camp showed up to take part in the race. Military members from Croatia, Germany, Sweden and the U.S. came together to compete in and complete the demanding physical competition.
The contest started at five in the morning, but contenders were up at 3:30 a.m., standing in line to weigh their rucksacks and body armor. Before they were officially entered into the competition, Croatian officials made sure each contestant’s cargo weighed 45 pounds exactly.
The sun started peeking over the horizon when the race began, but the staggering Afghanistan heat didn’t fill the air yet.
“It was nice out. It was a really great time to do it,” said Sgt. Derrick M. Dritchas, a Wichita, Kan., native, now a team leader with CSD. “There was a lot of wind too, which helped a lot with breathing and cooling your core temperature down.”
The race was a mix of paces, but most teams opted to alternate between running and speed-marching. Competitors sweated and doused themselves with water as they trudged along, shouting motivational words to their teammates to keep them going.
A U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team placed first, finishing the five-mile course at around 46 minutes.
The EOD team had conducted joint missions with Croatian military members who coaxed them into participating in the ruck-race, said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Matt G. Heber, a Cincinnati, Ohio, native, now an explosive ordnance disposal technician with Mobile Unit 6.
“I was the slow guy on the team, but [my teammates] pushed me along,” Heber said.
“We start as a team, we finish as a team,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Eric R. Bond, a San Diego native, now the incoming EOD company commander with Mobile Unit 1 and second member of the winning team.
The EOD team enjoyed the event, U.S. Navy Lt. Josh F. Preston, a Virginia Beach, Va., native, now the outgoing EOD company commander with Mobile Unit 6 and the final member of the winning team, said it was “a great opportunity to come together and do something as a team.”
While the ruck-run was a race, everyone seemed to be more interested in getting together and having a good time.
“The Croatian forces are our friends, so we just thought we’d come root them on and do it ourselves,” said Spc. Nicholaus J. Curphey, a Butte Falls, Ore., native, now a radiology specialist with C Company, 24th Brigade Support Battalion, 170th IBCT.
Curphey didn’t train for the race but was enthusiastic at the idea of taking part in it.
“I just enjoyed the people. Yeah, it was a race, but everybody was just cheering each other on,” said Curphey. “It was fun. It was tiring. We all got blisters, but it was really nice to see everybody.” White had some of the same thoughts as Curphey.
“I wanted to do it because it was a joint forces event,” White said. “You know when you’re stationed at Fort Hood or [other places in the U.S.] you don’t get to do stuff like that, but when you’re somewhere like this, you actually get an opportunity to be in a competition with other militaries. Everybody was really friendly. It was a lot of fun.”
Though the event was physically demanding and exhausting, immediately after the race, participants were already talking about wanting to do it again in the future.
“It totally smoked me. I was feeling pretty rancid,” said Spc. Andrey Legomina, a Redlands, Calif., native, now a rifleman with CSD. “But I would absolutely do it again.”
A friendly barbecue was held Aug. 5 for all those who participated in the race.
“The top three finishing teams get a Croatian award at the barbecue,” White said.
“The rest of us get good food,” said Dritchas.
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This work, 170th soldiers compete in multinational ruck-race, by SPC Nathan Goodall, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.