Last weekend, GoRuck hosted Mog Mile events throughout the US to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Operation Gothic Serpent (aka Blackhawk Down). The event we did in SLC also involved drinking beer. But not before learning about the operation and paying homage to the men who served in it through rucking and teamwork.
Early in the night, someone dropped one of the team weights we’d been tasked to carry. When it landed, it was loud. At a GoRuck event, letting any assigned weight (aka Coupon for ‘good living’) touch the ground is a punishable offense. Defying the Cadre is worse. So when our Cadre yelled out “who the F%$# dropped the weight?” I was equal parts proud and scared when nobody on the team said a word, even after he repeated the question.
Cody eventually punished us for dropping the weight, but we took it together as a team and nobody snitched. This brand of instant cohesion among strangers is why I love GoRuck. Nobody succeeds or fails alone, everything’s done as a team. Nothing is ever about you as an individual, just about where you’re going and the people beside you. It’s a fitting way to honor the spirit of what happened 25 years ago in Somalia.
If you want a list of exercises and an inventory of weights we carried, sorry. The linear version of these stories has been done before. It’s a GoRuck Tough: we had #40 in our packs at all times, and most of the night we carried much more. We did a lot of exercises, and rucked close to 20 miles against time hacks. Some of the experiences that made the highlight reel for yours truly were:
- Learning how to stop an arterial bleed using four types of tourniquets;
- Watching two guys’ light-hearted banter/bickering over the right way to build a litter;
- Appreciating how dangerous sliding down playground equipment at night can be during a race with other adults (think loud sounds and pain that a helmet could have prevented);
- Learning how to play Cadre Baseball – i.e. several trips around a diamond where each base (or trip thereto) is associated with exercises that suck;
- Realizing how much fun doing sprint intervals can be while wearing a #40 pack during crossing guard duty through SLC’s urban grid;
- Seeing an older lady hardcore crush on our muscular Cadre around midnight;
- Watching Cody’s magnanimity when a group of a-holes driving by in a truck at midnight shouted obscenities to our group. Seriously, who yells f-you to a crowd led by a special forces vet that’s carrying an American flag?
- The contorted faces on everyone in the hotel lobby and elevator as I walked by after the GoRuck event.
Our experience started shortly after sunset and went through until early morning. In the process, we’d gone from a dingy park on the classy side of town (visualize needles in the grass type class), traveled to a major park on the good side of town, continued up to the hillside University of Utah, then headed back down to the capital dome where we were summarily punished on the State grounds for missing a time-hack. It was an unseasonably hot night, and the team’s copious pee-stops were a testament to how seriously everyone took our Cadre’s instruction to “hydrate or die.”
Shortly after the sun came up, it started: Kent got shot in the leg, “you have 2 minutes to stop the bleeding.” Out came the straps to stop the bleeding and up Kent went into the air. In addition to the rucks, weights, and beer (we’d made an early morning pit-stop), Kent made his way back to the park we’d started from carried by the team.
The emotional climax came once we arrived back at the park where the event began. Throughout the evening, Cody would tell us stories from the mission and two people at a time would share bios they’d brought of service members they’d researched ahead of the event. Now it was time for the final two bios, purposely saved for the end: Delta Force Snipers Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon.
I’m conflicted about describing these two here, mainly because they deserve better. What I’ll say is that the movie shortchanges them and the crew they were trying to protect. They saw wounded Americans in a crashed helicopter with an angry city mobilizing towards them. After three tries, they were given permission to hit the ground (all two of them) and do what they could – which ended up being a lot. Both posthumously received the Medal of Honor – the first issued since the end of the Vietnam War.
After Shughart and Gordon’s stories were told, Cadre Cody named our casualties and sent us off to complete the final part of the Mogadishu Mile. Everyone was being carried or carrying multiple things as we followed the flag back to the Endex.
But instead of finishing the event when we reached the Cadre (and beer), we were told to form the tunnel of love.
As each of us made our way through, Cody was there on the other side to hand us the patches we’d spent all night trying to earn. Once the final person cleared the tunnel, class #2817 graduated and finally got to crack open the beer we’d been carrying.
This was my first event since DNF’ing the Ultimate Suck in August. The night before, I’d been nervous about being too weak to pull my weight and was clamoring for an excuse to stay home. I hadn’t done a GoRuck since 2016, and the last time I tried I couldn’t find the start line. Happily, all of that nonsense went away the second the event began and I got to hang with an amazingly fit group of Americans and a kick-ass Cadre.
When my wife and I made our way through the airport the next day, she saw me wince and make poopy faces every time I’d try to sit or stand. Over breakfast, she caught me smiling at the new patch on the front of my ruck and said: “it’s an awful lot of work for such a little patch.” She may be right, but it’s an awfully cool patch… and earning it was one of the more special emotional journeys I’ve experienced as an athlete.
Photo Credit for everything but the Popeye’s Shot: Nicole Sugihara
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