What in the world is GORUCK? GORUCK is a company formed by a former green beret soldier that designs and builds nearly indestructible bags and accessories. To learn more about company and the challenges they set up, visit them at their website.
The tough challenge is the challenge I took part in on August 26-27 on the M Lazy C Ranch near Lake George, CO. If you just looked that up on Google maps, you realize just how out in the middle of nowhere we were. This was a prototype wilderness event, so not only did we learn the values of teamwork and rucking, but also skills like night navigation and wilderness survival.
I won’t describe the entire event in detail because part of the experience is the uncertainty of it all. That, and each event is different, so mine won’t be exactly like the one you eventually do. I did go early and take advantage of a brief navigation class put on by the cadre. It was basically a hands-on version of the three-part article I read on the Art of Manliness website. Definitely glad I attended.
When the event started at 9PM, we were given the operational scenario and then had to follow some basic instruction. After that followed some team building physical exercises and then we were off to complete a team task. If only we had done better on that particular task. Alas, we did not create a useable apparatus and wound up carrying our supplies for a ways, all while learning how to operate as a team and follow orders from our team leader. Fast forward a few kilometers and countless burpees, we came to a part in our mission that required land navigation. If only it wasn’t 2AM and pitch black.
We began a journey that would teach us more about pain, fatigue, teamwork, and incredible accomplishment. Spoiler: we got to see an INCREDIBLE sunrise from the top of Round Mountain. Maybe you can guess what we climbed up in the dark. After that mountaintop moment, we navigated to another point where we completed survival tasks and then navigated back to where we started, 12.5 hours after we left.
Of course, all of this was done while wearing a 45 pound ruck and carrying either a person, a log, a sandbag, or *shudder* a bag full of water. Sometimes all of the above… or most of the above, anyway.
So why put yourself through this test of endurance? Just to brag? You better believe it.
More than bragging rights, there were lessons learned along the way. Valuable lessons that every human on earth can apply and be better for it. Unfortunately, I only can remember so much and write so well, so my advice to you would be to head to the GORUCK page and sign up for an event. Bring a buddy with you. And gloves.
Lesson 1: Teams work best with good team leaders
We switched off team leaders several times throughout the night. The team leaders received intel from the cadre and then transmitted orders to the team. Some team leaders were great at motivation, others with navigation, and some were just plain good at everything. Our team functioned best with team leaders that:
- Knew what they were doing
- Had confidence in their decisions
- Kept the team unified
- Listened well to the cadre and previous team leader (TL)
In life, every leader has another leader somewhere. Start being a good TL by paying attention to what your leader tells you to do. Understand thoroughly the instructions so you know what you are doing. You then will have the confidence to make smart and swift decisions. Use that momentum to keep your team unified. One of my TLs did that by constantly encouraging the group and by checking with individuals using specific questions.
Good decisions = good progress = good morale = good continued progress.
One of my other TLs struggled quite a bit with the map reading. He caused us to miss our time hack and we often had to stop with a LOT of weight on our shoulders while he attempted to figure out where we were.
Uncertainty = lack of progress = lack of morale = slowed progress.
Lesson 2: Don’t miss your time hacks
We missed our first time hack by about 40 minutes if I remember correctly. Cadre Shredder had us form up and told us a true story about he and his squad being in a life-threatening situation in which they had to move–fast. As they started, their medic fell and broke his leg. They were carrying a LOT of gear, one injured medic, and were receiving fire from the forest around them. They had called in a pick up, but failed to make the time hack. The chopper can’t wait for late soldiers. The next pick up point was 5x the distance away and through a lot more bad guys with guns. Having learned our lesson, we then proceeded to do 25 burpees to really cement that lesson in our heads. Yes, the last one we held plank while we received more learnin’ from our cadre. Lesson: don’t be late. Missing your time hack can cost you:
- An opportunity you’ll never have again
- Confidence from the party you’re meeting
- Safety, security, and perhaps your life
Being late to a job interview can cost you what might have been the greatest job you’ve ever held. Being late to church could cost you the encouragement from a friend that could’ve helped you through your week. Being late to school could cost you trust from your teacher, and it will take a while to earn that back, if ever. Being late in a military scenario or in a dangerous urban situation can cost you or someone you love their safety or their life.
Lesson 3: Stop Grunting
As we carried heavy things for long distances (I think I just defined the GORUCK challenge) some of us began to allow grunts to escape from our midsection and throats as we re-hoisted something weighty above us. It really was an involuntary reaction. Cadre made sure to teach us a thing or two about that kind of noise:
- It’s subversive
- It’s demoralizing
- It’s unnecessary
Cadre counted one man grunting at the beginning of a hike and seven at the end of that stretch. One person grunting can get a whole bunch of other people grunting. Think of grunting as “non-verbal complaining” and I think you’ll make the connection pretty quick to everyday life. Not only does it spread fast and under the radar, but it demoralizes people. When one person groans about how much longer the shift is, guess what? Other people start groaning, too. Other people also get a little more weary, too. You are not helping your team when you grunt and complain. Just because something is involuntary does not mean that it is necessary. We were told to be quiet. We didn’t talk, but we grunted. Grunting was not necessary to the success of the mission, so you know what we learned to do? We stopped grunting. You should try it, too.
Lesson 4: No Teammate Left Behind
Right at the get-go, Cadre Shredder told us that if we didn’t do our part and pull our weight, he would send us home. This isn’t a “no child left behind” policy in that lazy people get a free ride on the backs of the hard-working. When we moved, we moved with our whole team or we didn’t move at all. Either that, or we did lots of burpees (that may have happened a time or two before we got the principle down). When you move, you think in this order:
When you move, don’t think about your sore feet. Think about your team and the objective first. Then think about the guy’s sore feet in front of you and see if you can help him out. Then think about the girl to the left of you and see if you can encourage her. Lastly, think about yourself, but think positively. Don’t drag yourself down with complaining, grunting thoughts. Focus first on your team, then on the needs of your teammate, and finally on yourself. If you need food, water, or assistance, you get that taken care of, but you make sure your team is taken care of first. Everyday life: stop thinking about your wants and needs in your family. Family first, members of your family second, and yourself last.
As a Christian, this is easy to translate into the spiritual realm: Christ’s kingdom first (team), other people second (teammates) and yourself last.
Lesson 5: Everybody has a job
I wasn’t TL at any point, but I was an ox (I carried heavy things), I took charge on some survival skills we had to perform, and I held the compass more than once. No matter where you were or what you were doing, you were contributing to the team. Either map, compass, flag bearer, squad leader, team leader, pace counter, injured person carrier, heavy stuff carrier, or team weight person, everyone had something to do. On our team, there wasn’t a single “gray man” that tried to blend in to get away with doing nothing.
- Don’t wait to be asked – volunteer
- Pick the hardest job and don’t complain
- If you’re doing nothing, find something to do
Don’t just slack off at work or milk the clock – there’s no honor and no growth in that. Find a way to work hard and benefit your team, even if you never get a thank you or a slap on the back. Doing nothing should make you uncomfortable.
Ok, I learned more than five lessons, and maybe I’ll write later on more lessons I learned, but this should keep you busy for a little while, at least. One of the greatest realizations a person can have is that the awesome truths learned from this challenge are nuggets of wisdom that are also given in God’s Word. God teaches us to be faithful and righteous leaders, to be honest and redeem the time, to be content and not to grumble, to focus on the kingdom first, others second, and self last, and finally to be busy about the Master’s business, no matter what your position is.
Until next time, I’ll be out there rucking. GORUCK!