All Together Now sandhurst 2017

There were eleven members of the G1 Sandhurst team. For eight months, they had prepared for this day—this cold April day with mist in the air and rain on the ground. Now, their gear lay in piles, rank and file, for inspection. “Two canteens, full,” a voice rang out. Twenty-two canteens rose in the air until the reply, “G1 is good.”

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On the starting command, G1, along with three other teams with the same start time, took off. The first portion of the competition was a ruck run. In full kit, the team ran from the start point to Buffalo Soldier Field, a mile away. Feet pounding, the four teams started to become mixed together. “Tighten up!” Sterling Willman, G1’s squad leader, yelled. The fastest runners at the front slowed down and waited for the rest of the team to catch up.

The demands of the race were just starting. G1’s next task was daunting. A crate lay filled with full jerry cans and boxes of supplies. The team’s mission was to carry the supplies to a Humvee, push the Humvee a certain distance, push it back, and return the supplies to the original configuration. They divided the task according to the talents of the team, with the strongest pushing and the smallest steering.

After that, it was time for the first movement of the day. Two miles up, out of the river valley, to a medical lane. Before G1 moved, however, there was some route planning to do. Willman took two of his senior team members to each plot the grid coordinates of the new location and ensure they were all on the same page.

At the medical lane, G1’s preparation for the competition became evident. The team had practiced who would perform first aid, who would call up the evacuation request, and who would pull security.

The movement to the next lane did not go as well as the first movement. Early on, the three navigators—Sterling, Brian Crisman, and Conall Malloy—couldn’t decide which way we were supposed to go.

As we climbed higher into the hills, it became increasingly clear that we were in the wrong place.

Morale dropped briefly as we moved through a swamp to get to the objective.

Luckily for the team, they shot very well at the pistol range. The team was smiling once again as we proceeded from the pistol range to range 11 for the M4 shoot.

The trek to the M4 range was typical of most movements for the competition. It was wet, muddy, and not sunny. Dozens of teams had passed before us on the same route, so we walked on the edge of the trail, trying to stick to the places where the mud was the shallowest.

As the team moved, again, the call frequently came to “Tighten up!” It was easy for the point man to find himself ahead of the rest of the squad. The variety of terrain on the trail added to the difficulty of staying together. Step after step through thick mud soon soaked boots and coated them with deposits of dark mud.

When we arrived at the range, we found our TAC officer, Major O’donnell, waiting for us with his family. The team dropped their rucks, received their instructions from the range safeties, and proceeded to knock down some targets. One member of the team, Benton Barber, reportedly managed to knock down two targets with one bullet, which would have been great if all of his other bullets had hit targets as well!

The final lane for the day was the grenade range. The team’s three best grenadiers threw while the rest of the team pulled security. Because of the nature of grenades, the team had no idea how well they did on the event; the thrower falls flat under cover before the grenade lands.

The grenade lane was the final lane for the day. Then, it was on to the bivouac site. Sadly, the distance from where we were to the end point was as far as the total distance we had traveled all day!

"There was going to be a time when this was going to suck. That time is now." - Johanna Forbes

After a quick rest at the top, we started down the other side, towards the bivouac site. The team was ready to be done, but the desire to finish strong was greater than the pain of moving.

Once we arrived, the team received our campsite and we set up for some rest and food. MREs were the menu items and staying warm was the top priority. The temperature with wind-chill was about 28 degrees. We had minimal shelter and not quite enough clothes to keep the cold from seeping from the wet ground into our bodies.

Around midnight, the team left for a few events in the dark. They walked around in the dark interacting with simulated locals and opposition forces. They returned for a few hours of sleep before daybreak.

Saturday morning at 0600, three different watch alarms went off in the G1 bivouac and the squad was awake. Complaints could be heard as cadets moved from their cold sleeping bags to the much colder outside. The team stripped off layers, knowing they would be warm as soon as they started moving. For the time being, though, they were cold.

Heading into the first event of the day, the G1 Sandhurst team got a huge morale boost. About 25 members of the company had made the trip out to Camp Buckner to cheer them on while they completed an obstacle course.

After the obstacle course, the whole company ran with the team to the next event, the Zodiac boat event.

Despite the cold, the team threw themselves into the water to accomplish the Zodiac mission, knowing they would have to change their socks afterward.

As the team moved from Buckner to the last two lanes, the team began to get tired. One of the techniques employed to keep the squad moving was to have a slower member of the squad latch onto the rucksack of a faster member, forcing them to keep pace and not fall behind. The team members paid careful attention to each of their teammates, ensuring that everyone was drinking water and doing all right.

The chemical warfare lane had the potential to be one of the hardest. Anyone who didn’t put their mask on in time would be declared a casualty and would have to be carried by the rest of the team. G1 all put their masks on in time and were able to easily run through the lane and the exercise that followed.

The last lane before returning to West Point was the casualty evacuation lane. The squad carried one member of their team, Johanna Forbes, for about half a mile. Two squad members, John Holeman and Conall Malloy, took turns hauling Forbes on their backs while other squad members carried the three rifles and extra rucks.

After running the last mile back down to West Point, there remained one more challenge for the G1 Sandhurst team. A full-sized howitzer sat on the apron in front of Ike Barracks. Together, the team again pushes a piece of heavy equipment to a destination and back. Then, a sprint to the finish line!

Photos by CDT Robert Norwood ('20). All rights reserved. Please share the story with anyone who might enjoying knowing what a Sandhurst competition looks like.

Created By
Robert Norwood
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