TIKRIT, Iraq (17 June 2006) – 101st Airborne Division Soldiers ran across the Iraqi desert, dropped their rucksacks and disassembled and reassembled their weapons behind their backs.
They were not suffering from the heat, but competing to find out who would be known as having the best patrol skills.
Soldiers and Airmen had the chance to show off some of their war fighting skills during a Patrol Competition held here at Contingency Operating Base Speicher.
The competition, organized by members of the Air Force Detachment 1, 732nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group, began with a ladder climb followed by a three and half mile ruck march to the firing range.
Once at the range, competitors were required to disassemble their weapons and then reassemble the weapons behind their backs. With their weapon reassembled, the competitors fired five rounds into a target at 50 meters.
After firing, the competitors picked up their rucksacks and began the three and half mile march back to the start point. They then had to drag a sandbag-laden stretcher weighing 120 lbs. across a field and answer a memory test. The test asked questions about the ruck march course, requiring the competitors to be observant as if they were on patrol.
“They could have chosen any route they wanted to get to and from the range, our way was not necessarily the straightest path there,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. John Kennedy, one of the competition organizers. “However, our memory test asked questions about the course that we had set up.”
Air Force Lt.Col. Max Dubroff, commander of Detachment 1, 732nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group, was a central figure in organizing the event. Dubroff was also the first to begin the course.
When one Soldier asked for a demonstration for the ladder climb, Dubroff responded, “Watch me, I’m your demonstration.” He quickly climbed the ladder and took off to begin the ruck march.
Three-minute time penalties were added to a competitor’s time if an event was not completed correctly. For instance, some had difficulty assembling their weapon behind their back and took the penalty by looking at their weapon.
Maps posted at each of two checkpoints assisted the contestants and kept them on track. Water was also available, though all competitors were required to bring with them either a camelback or a water bottle.
Organizers said that 29 Soldiers and Airmen completed the course.
First place went to Sgt. 1st Class Sterling Deck, of the 501st Military Intelligence Detachment, 101st Airborne Division. Deck finished the race in one hour and twenty-five minutes and said simply, “It was challenging.”
Lyn Graves, CPT