FORT BRAGG, N.C. - In the military, communication, teamwork and trust are key elements of a successful unit. Knowing your fellow soldiers are watching your back ensures that you can complete your mission without worry. This is true for any team environment, as the women of the University of North Carolina – Wilmington softball team found out Jan. 8, when they traveled to Fort Bragg, N.C., to complete the leaders reaction course.
The leaders reaction course is a strategic obstacle course usually used by soldiers to promote small unit cohesion and problem solving.
Although each obstacle has its own specific challenges, they all entail maneuvering each member of the team and pieces of equipment from one side to the other, across platforms of varying heights, using only wooden planks to avoid restricted areas. Unlike a normal obstacle course which requires brawn over brains, the LRC demands planning and cooperation.
Head coach Kristy Norton coordinated the event through Fort Bragg Community Relations as a team-building exercise. After growing up in a military family, Norton said she wanted the lady Seahawks to get a feel for what service members do, while learning their own strengths and those of their teammates.
Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, oversaw the event to explain the requirements of each station and ensure the course was completed safely. The 22 players were broken down into three teams, one team per station.
After receiving instructions on their respective station they were given 10 minutes to plan their attack. They strategized the best ways to utilize the different-sized planks to reach various points in each obstacle and when to move ammo cans and barrels to get them safely to the objective.
The ladies with the most intestinal fortitude were the first to volunteer to scale to the top of 8-foot tall platforms and squeeze into metal tunnels to assist their teammates.
“I’ve done some (team-building activities) before, but these are a lot more challenging,” said Camry Wagner, an infielder in her junior year at UNC-W. “It’s definitely hard but fun at the same time because you get to work with everybody on the team in a different way than you normally do.”
Wagner added that trust and communication on the field helps the girls win games, but those same qualities make them stronger off the field as well.
“Being able to communicate and work well together on and off the field helps bring the team together,” she said.
The team’s can-do attitude also helped them with the challenges they faced on the course. If they didn’t succeed right away, they jumped back on the horse and did it again, said Norton.
“We play a 56-game season, so we might fail one game and have to turn around and play right away again,” she said.
This resiliency and optimism enables the team to overcome obstacles on the field or otherwise.