FORT HOOD, Texas - On a cold and dreary afternoon, Spc. Brock Messamore of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 38th Cavalry Regiment sprints down a mud-slick trail deep in the wooded ranges of Fort Hood.
Perspiration melds with the ambient drizzle hanging heavy in the air as the Illinois native sloshes to a halt, huffing with the exertion of running a half mile under the weight of a full combat load.
Messamore has completed the first leg of the Recon Readiness Challenge, a competition held within his squadron to test the soldier’s ability to demonstrate their warrior skills while under physical and mental stress.
“This is one of the most important types of training you can get,” said 1 Lt. Garry Gorrell, the 1st platoon leader for C Company, 2-38 Cav. “The recon readiness challenge is going to encompass all events of basically simulating a Soldier in combat.”
Soldiers proceed through the challenge alone. After the run, their bodies are brought to near exhaustion with kettle bell swings and dead-lifts. It is in this state of labored breathing and tired muscles that they must load their weapons and engage a series of targets under the scrutinizing gaze of an evaluator.
“This is the closest to combat that training can get when it comes to marksmanship and bringing up the stress level,” said Gorrell.
1st Lt. Brian Jones, the 3rd Long Range Surveillance Platoon leader for C Company, 2-38 Cav. waits silently at the last station as Messamore bounds toward the wounded soldier lying in the middle of the path.
He quickly assesses the casualty and performs tactical first aid, cinching off a tourniquet on the upper half of the soldier’s thigh before wrapping the simulated gunshot wound below with a pressure dressing.
A disassembled radio waits nearby for Messamore to call in his nine-line medical evacuation request. With the call sent, he stoops to shoulder the tow-strap of a Skedco Rescue Stretcher loaded with 20L water jugs and begins to stomp the last hundred meters to the finish line.
“Training like this enhances the individual with so much confidence in his ability to execute under stress the critical skills that are needed in combat. It’s probably the best thing we can do as leaders, to recreate the stresses of combat in a training environment,” said Jones.
“As the corps’ reconnaissance squadron, we’re expected to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier in the corps,” said Jones. “That’s what we’re trying to instill and uphold here today.”
All soldiers who successfully complete the Recon Readiness Challenge within the time limit and with high enough scores are awarded the squadron’s belt buckle, which they are authorized to wear within the squadron footprint.
“For people who earn their belt buckle, it’s basically an outward way to display that they have lived up to the expectations of the Recon Six,” said Jones. “Not only the physical requirements, but marksmanship training, communication skills, medical training, all culminating in our stress shoot.”
“It’s going to be a pretty good competition out here,” said Messamore. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have been training and preparing for it. We’ve taken a lot of time before even coming out to the range to prepare for each individual task.”
“They like to show off, they like to demonstrate their capabilities,” said an enthusiastic Brig. Gen. Dean Milner, deputy commanding general of III Armored Corps and Fort Hood. “Competition breeds challenges, it instills motivation. You can just see it, they’re fired up.”
2-38 CAV is one of the units which Milner provides oversight for. Today, he is present at the competition to show the soldiers his support.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that they like to see their leaders,” said Milner. “It gives them an opportunity to talk about what they’re doing, which is all focused around readiness.”
“This is a great way for leaders to challenge their soldiers to prove their excellence,” touts Milner, who has stationed himself alongside the C Company, 2-38 Cav. command group, crowded around the dead-lift station. “This is the means to first of all compare them but also to excite them. I call it train to excite.”
“It’s going to be fun having a competition between ourselves,” said Messamore. “We don’t always get a chance to compete against each other so it’s nice to see where everyone’s at.”
There is no prize for the soldier with the best overall score. Today, the soldiers of C Company, 2-38 Cav. proved willing to endure the rigorous stress of combat for nothing more than bragging rights.