In the middle of July I completed GORUCK Expedition 6 & 12. The expedition events are my 8th and 9th events respectively. I have completed Jedburgh and Constellation (before the 6/12 split) with the rest of my events being Lights and Challenges. The expedition events are aimed at practicing navigation and bushcraft. I have a fair amount of outdoor experience, but found the expedition courses worthwhile as it gave me a controlled environment to practice skills before I need them.
In the 6 hour we learned to read terrain, use a map and compass, make fishing drop lines, and reviewed first aid kits, tourniquets, and moving casualties. The 12 hour added pacing/step count, UTM plotter work with the map & compass, fire making, additional wilderness medicine, rope work, field expedient weapons, and shelter making.
The particulars of the skills you learn and practice will vary from site to site and cadre to cadre. There’s no way we were going to practice snow shelters in middle of summer in Indiana. As a result there will be some items on the packing list that you will not use. Moreover, there will be some items that you wish you had e.g. combustion tools and containers to boil water in. I assume the inefficiencies of the packing list are intentional to get us to consider scavenging for resources. We used glass bottles to boil water in. I had a lighter saving us from rubbing two sticks together or some such.
The weather was exceptionally hot and humid as Indiana is wont to be. I found the heat and humidity most unbearable though in the evening. The GORUCK website stated food and comfort items were not permitted at the 12 hour event. Following the the GRT philosophy of, “If you ain’t cheatin’, then you ain’t tryin'”, I decided I would sneak some food in. Turns out, the cadre allowed us to have food. We learned this fact well into the event when they had us hold position after a strenuous movement and encouraged us to eat. I wish I would have brought my typical allotment of food as I was suffering something fierce toward the end of the event. I was exceptionally hot and nauseated and did not think clearly as a result. I needed calories to help thermoregulate and provide fuel for my brain. I certainly did not like the way I felt and I did not like that I was not nearly as helpful as I could have been for my team. I became more of a liability than asset.
The team I was a part of in the 6 hour event was stellar. We clicked right away and were able to problem solve. 5 of 6 were returning for the 12 hour event. In the 12 hour I was still able to be a part of the team with three of people who were at the 6. While I feel bad for being a liability for part of the event I do know that I contributed and I hope that balances out. When we began 12, the cadre had us running through the woods before we could get organized in any meaningful way. Upon arrival at our destination, the cadre asked if we were all accounted for. We were. I had made it a point to count every person just in case.
During large group movements we got lost or disoriented a few times. None the less, the leaders and team mates always maintained high spirits. This is really the core of Expedition: Maintain a positive mental attitude and practice your skills before you need them. My personal takeaway from the event is that I need to make myself more resilient to the heat. I’m going to go and get fat now.