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GORUCK Light Thanksgiving AAR

Light Class 1044

I signed up for several GORUCK events and impulse purchased a light for Thanksgiving weekend. Class 1044 started and finished with 71 people. My first light had 8. My first light went for 6 hours, had a 1 hour welcome party and covered 8 miles. The Thanksgiving light went for 5.5 hours, had 3 hour welcome party, and covered 4 miles. Though the specifics are different the outcomes were the same: I had a great time with some good livin’.

The event started late because the Challenge which started the night before ended just before the light started. The Challenge had to push a 70,000 lbs (31,751 kg) semi truck. 15 of the people who did the challenge also did the light. They essentially performed one long event which ran 20 hours as they did not have time between to reload and refuel.

Cadre Sean and Cadre Daniel, both Army Special Forces, started our event with sprints and PT with our ruck. We also had some team building activities in there like inch worm pushups (think the human centipede performing pushups), low crawling under our teammates, body surfing our teammates to the end of a line, and rolling underneath our team.

Inch worms

Tunnel of Love

Body surfing

These events were followed by bear crawls, wheel barrow races, buddy carries, and more PT.

Cadre Sean then shared how mortar fire saved him and his team several times in Afghanistan. A nearby volleyball court allowed us to appreciate his love for mortars. After crawling on our backs and dragging our rucks between our legs, we linked up – legs around the waist of the guy in front of you. We grabbed handfuls of sand and threw it straight up in the air. This was repeated until the mortars provided the necessary support.

Fire in the hole!

Sufficiently sandy we were ready to start rucking with the worm – a group of sandbags connected by carabiners. A young man was tasked with adding the weight of the worm. It weighed 560 lbs (254 kg). The worm had some specific requests. At first it wanted to be carried low, then it wanted to be carried on our shoulders. Its most interesting request was to be carried between our legs.

While rucking to Encanto Park, some teammates were deemed casualties and had to be buddy carried. The worm and our casualties arrived safely in the park. We reformed rank and file. Half of the team jumped in a pond while the other half held plank. Then we switched. During this movement a participant received an actual injury. A girl fractured her ankle although we thought she sprained it at the time.

Not cold enough to elicit the mammalian dive reflex.

I am grateful that I repeatedly jumped in Lake Michigan in the winter. The pond class 1044 jumped in was cold, but those dives in Lake Michigan taught me the water can always be colder. In order to warm up we performed more PT. 5 minutes of arm circles turned into 8 minutes because we had to restart any time someone’s arms dropped. Once we were warmed, we rucked back to the Margaret T. Hance Park.

Chop your own firewood and you will be warm twice.

Passing our rucks back and forth while doing sit-ups.

A mile out from the park 50% of our females were casualties who had to be carried. We were given a time limit to make it back to the park. For every minute we were over, five more females became casualties. Once back at the park we formed rank and file again. We held our rucks overhead and began marching. With that drill we earned our GORUCK Light Thanksgiving patches.

New piece of flair.

Cadre Sean also handed out patches to individuals who had participated in 5, 10, or 15 events with him. He gave a patch to a woman who had done 15 events and to his recollection, she is the only one to do that thus far.

Pictured left to right: Beer, Cadre Daniel, Me

Cadre Sean also shared how the patches are just swathes of cloth that mean nothing. It is how it is earned that means something. He displayed a cloth sample which meant nothing, but was earned in an extraordinary way – his green beret. The cadre shared some interesting experiences with us and kept us motivated and entertained the whole way through.

Cadre Sean

Wear & Gear

Not much changed between my first light and this one.

  • Merrell Grassbow Air trail runners instead of my Saucony ones (they were finally worn out)
  • Patagonia Rockcraft pants instead of shorts
  • GORUCK 10 lbs (4.53 kg) rucking plate instead of two bricks duct taped together. The plate was supported by a yoga brick which was cut down to width. The plate was stowed in the laptop compartment of my GR1.

My gear, what I wore, and how I trained were otherwise all the same. I performed the GORUCK 6 week training plan before this event and felt well conditioned. If I continue to ruck and PT I think it is safe to say I would be ready for any GORUCK Light in a moment’s notice.

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GORUCK Light AAR

Intro

GORUCK Light is an introduction to the team-based training found in Special Operations. While wearing a backpack (or ruck in military parlance) with 2 or 4 bricks in it, you and your team receive a guided tour (AKA rucking) of your town with good livin’ (AKA PT) along the way. It is not a race. You do not win or lose, but your team does. The only way to succeed is as a team.

The class learns teamwork through adversity. This adversity is orchestrated by a cadre, an experienced member of Special Operations. Danny, a SF medic, was our cadre for class 311.

Each class may have up to 30 teammates. There were nine people in the class. I thought it was only going to have four as only four people signed up on the Facebook page. The Facebook page is the main source of information about your event and I highly recommend signing up. That said, several members stated they couldn’t find the page; a problem I also had which was rectified with an email to Goruck.

Three of us (myself included) are civilians. Five of the military members were going through a two month leadership course in southern Arizona and the other is a member of the National Guard. The National Guardsman, a combat medic, completed several Goruck Challenges and Lights. His girlfriend was doing her first light.

Training

There are many ways to prepare for GRC or GRL. I followed their 6 week program and felt fairly prepared for the physical challenges. How ever you decide to train, make sure your training includes rucking.

Although the event is physically challenging, the mental taxation is a far greater problem. It is very easy to quit rather than push through the event. My mental training consisted of watching Apollo 13 the night before the event. What better movie/event to reinforce the concept of teamwork under harsh conditions?

My motivation for the event. If I ever became down and out I was going to reflect on my dad’s military service, my time with the Ship of Fools, and becoming a nurse. I never felt down and out.

Packing

As recommended I wrapped my bricks in three layers of duct tape.

Members of the GRT community recommend wearing the bricks high on the back and securing them so they do not shift around. Just as there are many ways to train for the event there are also many successful ways to pack the bricks.

I strapped my between two yoga blocks. The lower block elevated the bricks and the upper block prevented the bricks from hitting my head during bear crawls.

 

My 3 liter hydration bladder sat on top of the bricks.

 

To prevent it from slipping to the bottom of my pack, I secured it with a carabiner to the interior MOLLE webbing.

My food and electrolyte tabs were kept in a 1 quart Ziploc bag in the outer slant pocket. I kept a Clif Shot in my cargo pocket for easy access. After I ate, I replaced it the next opportunity I had. I packed more food than I needed. I had enough to share with others, but so did everyone else. I also had Nuun electrolyte tabs. Imagine Alka-Seltzer crossed with Gatorade. These tabs are excellent and definitely kept me hydrated.

Gear

As long as you have a durable, comfortable pack, you will be fine to complete the event. That said, the GR1 is made for this event. It is expensive, but it is durable and well made.

Five of the military personnel wore ALICE packs which jut out. The packs worked well, but when we did low crawls under our teammates (Tunnel Of Love) the ALICE packs definitely whacked some of us. Our lone female reported having a mastectomy as a result of the packs whacking her. A low profile pack is not a necessity, but it is appreciated.

A Pelican Box 1020 contained a first aid kit (gauze & duct tape wrapped around an Aleve tube), my ID, cash, Leatherman PS4, and my challenge coin.  I also brought a cycling windbreaker which was kept in the mesh zipper compartment. Of all of these items I only used the Leatherman (we used another teammate’s first aid kit though). I would not hesitate to bring all of these items again because their weight is minimal in comparison to their utility. I also brought a pen and a rite-in-the-rain note pad. I brought them in case there were complicated orders (there were not). It is not a huge weight, especially in comparison to three liters of water, but I would not bother to bring them again.

Clothing

I wore Saucony trail runners. Five of the military personnel wore combat boots which retained water and did not drain well at all. The civilians wore trail runners or running shoes and had no problems with water retention.  Of note, our cadre stated he wore trail shoes on missions & patrols and wore combat boots for general duty.

Injinji toe socks were worn on the recommendation of long distance runners. With fabric between to the toes I had no hot spots, blisters, or other feet abnormalities. Being made mostly of wool they wicked water & sweat and dried quickly.

Any athletic wear will suffice for the event. All but one person wore shorts. I wore swim trunks which I typically wear when working out or running. I was going to wear Patagonia Rockcraft pants, but they were too hot when training. A cycling jersey served as my top and the pockets in the back proved useful for keeping items close at hand.

Mechanix gloves protected my hands when carrying coupons and enjoying bear crawls.

Event

We met at Wheeler Park on a windy, sunny afternoon. After going through a safety briefing, Cadre Danny called for a non-military, non-Goruck candidate to be team leader. As there were only three options, I volunteered as tribute. The cadre provides mission details to the team leader who then leads the team on said mission. Our goal was to move from Wheeler Park to Thorpe Park in 8 minutes to meet a contact. We did not make the time hack and as a result the corrective action was physical exercise. Once we arrived in the general area, I was looking for an actual contact (we were originally assigned two cadre so I was looking for the second one. This was wrong). That error taught us a chant, “Pain now. Beer later”. The first part of the chant is said in the down position of a push up. The second portion is thus said in the up position.

Once we arrived at Thorpe Park, we entered a pond up to our shins. We then received our welcome party which consisted of squats, flutter kicks, squat thrusters, and other body weight exercises.

Our next mission was to pick up a cache of weapons and move to a safe house. Cadre Danny showed me a map of where we were and where we needed to be. Like last time, the route was up to us.

Our weapons cache which required eight of us to move it.

Our safe house was this open field where we performed bear crawls, bear sleds, buddy carries, and the infamous Tunnel of Love.

This is a non-standard buddy carry.

I was then fired from being team leader and another person was brought on. From the field we had to march to the Lowell Observatory on top of Mars Hill.

Class #311

From there we went to the woods behind the observatory and performed a few more team building challenges and earned a jerry can filled with 5 gallons of dirt.

With a new team leader, the American flag, team weight, and other coupons we marched to Northern Arizona University to take out a target. We had to borrow 4 minutes of the Cadre’s time, and we paid him back with squats, push ups, flutter kicks, and more.

Some more shenanigans occurred which brought two teammates to share a leg.

We rucked to our exfiltration point on time and proceeded to do more PT. With the last round of bear sleds complete, Cadre Danny had us rise and receive our GRL patch.

Nothing in life is to be given. It is only to be earned.

We covered 7 miles over the course of the event.

Cadre Danny with me and the team weight, the Designated Individual Comfort Killer

On behalf of a grateful spouse

I have always and will always be grateful for those who sacrifice their liberties and lives so that I may have mine. I am especially grateful this Veterans Day because my place of federal employment gives me the day off. With the holiday, I will be able to travel to see my spouse – something many deployed men and women have not been able to do. So, thank you today and every day for making my life comfortable.

Secret cadavers are encrypted

My love of puns finally meets up with my love of steganography.  The goal of steganography is to hide a message in plain view.  A microdot might be affixed to a postage stamp for example. To the uninitiated the stamp simply paid the tax for carrying a letter. A spy; however, would know to look for the microdot and view it under a microscope to read a message.  With U.S. mail delivery being eliminated on Saturdays, I wonder how many secret spy plans will be postponed until Monday.

Another method of steganography is to hide a message in text.  Awkward lines invariably appear, stegasaurus.  Awkward grammar, spelling, syntax, and topics are welcome with puns considering their punchlines often rely on such eccentricities. Abdelrahman Desoky, a computer scientist at University of Maryland, used bad jokes to hide messages in plain view.  His work can be found here, but he used a joke generator from MIT to craft the messages.

As I am not a spy, I am not sure how useful this technique is.  None the less, now seems like the time to invest in Laffy Taffy.

Royal Navy Field Gun Competition

Why didn’t someone tell me this was a competition?!

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