GORUCK Light Challenge tests, inspires Gunfighters

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Painful muscles, cramps, skin dripping sweat, extremely hot temperatures and two heavy downpours courtesy of the Mountain Home Air Force Base Fire Department weren't enough to dispel the motivation of more than more than 25 members of the (Gunfighter) community participating in the GORUCK Light/ Team Cohesion Challenge here July 12.

The new Air Force pilot program, Team Cohesion Challenge, is modeled after special operations training.

"As a GORUCK cadre member, it's my objective to introduce participants to my unique special operations experiences and show how those skills apply to leadership and teamwork, while in a stressful and physically demanding situation," said Mike Stewart, GORUCK cadre member from Boise, Idaho. "Through the light events I hope to promote strength, cooperation and leadership with the ultimate goal of helping the participants realize they are capable of so much more than they ever thought. I hope to push them into wanting more both out of the Air Force and their own lives by setting goals and then going out and achieving success."

The new Air Force pilot program aims to get Airmen, dependents and Department of Defense employees involved in activities challenging them as a team and also encouraging a healthy, resilient lifestyle.

"This challenge creates a sense of community like no other, taking the wingman concept to a new level," said Benjamin Evers, Air Force Personnel Center Outdoor Recreation operations specialist. "All the goals of this program benefit the Air Force as much as the participant because Airmen who know they can do amazing things will do them in all aspects of their life. Having fit and resilient Airmen is one of the enduring priorities of the Air Force."

Mountain Home AFB is the first of 18 Air Force bases to test the Team Cohesion Challenge, which will end in November.

"I was very impressed with the participants during the challenge," said Stewart. "I believe most of them had zero idea what to expect but when stressed and pushed to their limits they came together as a team and did what was necessary to accomplish the mission. I would gladly come back and lead another GORUCK event anytime."

While on active-duty, Stewart deployed three times as an Air Force Special Operations member and has attended 13 military training schools from all branches of service including Jungle Environmental Survival Training, United States Navy Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape, U.S. Marine Corps Sniper School and U.S. Army High Altitude-Low Opening Jump School.

"As a special operations veteran, one of the questions we are asked at the completion of our training is if we would ever serve in combat with the people we trained with," said Stewart. "This isn't combat training; however, I would, without question, do an event with each and every one of the Mountain Home GORUCK Light finishers anytime, anyplace. I am just so extremely proud of how well they did today."

GORUCK challenges were developed by an Army Green Beret in an effort to offer elite, Special Forces training to participants.

"As an observer, you see the point where participants will do everything they can to not let each other down," said Evers. "This devotion to the team is a real sense of personal accomplishment for them. Once completed, they can reflect on what they accomplished and see how far outside their comfort zones they went. It's an amazing personal transformation because the biggest obstacle they face is in their own head."

Evers continued by explaining it's self-doubt or demons in their heads which tell them they can't do another push-up or carry the ruck sacks any farther.

"That is where the team comes in to help," he continued. "They not only literally encourage you to keep going, but there is also the personal devotion to the team--you can't let them down."

A key to the GORUCK Light challenge is how quickly participants are able to adapt to the obstacles, such as carrying a 250 pound raft on their shoulders, while performing as a synergized group.

"The challenge was very intense and really pushed me to the limits of physical endurance," said 2nd Lt. Cameron White, 366th Comptroller Squadron financial services flight commander. "We are told we cannot do this as an individual and I think yes I can. But after only a few minutes of doing high-intensity calisthenics in the sand pit I realized I was in for a challenge."

The only relief participants had from scorching 90 degree heat of the July sun was from being blasted by fire hoses while performing flutter kicks on the pavement.

"I loved getting soaked by the fire hoses," said White. "The creative scenarios provided by the GORUCK cadre are a memory I won't soon forget because ultimately, the most important part of the challenge is that it correlates so well with our Air Force wingman resiliency concept."