18 men of F3 Raleigh careened towards an unforgettable Memorial Day weekend—16 ready to ruck. Both Floppy Disk (Shoulder) and Tecumseh (Ribs) were there in spirit, with their expensive backpacks, space food, and kid’s-size-small shirts. The Resident Mystic suggested parking at the top of a seven story parking deck in the middle of downtown Raleigh…for effect. Mystical he may be, but the Chonger could not have seen the future that would include a broken elevator and one more pack-laden climb. But we get ahead of ourselves…
- First Things First—Take a Bad Thing and Worsen It
Eons ago, Chong Li, White Shoe, Tecumseh and Floppy Disk rolled around in the snow with GORUCK Class 421. Eyewitness accounts indicated that our boys acquitted themselves nicely with 75 greater Charlotte pax and at least three cadre. They came home, ever charged up with visions of voluntary deprivations in the middle of the Raleigh night.
Original recruitment efforts for Charlotte were well underway when some of us had the very convenient realization that this GORUCK rock’n roll show was coming to Raleigh. White Shoe reports that the following conversation ensued:
White Shoe: You gonna sign up for Charlotte?
Money Hose: When is it?
White Shoe: February.
Money Hose: Yeah. I guess so. D&*^^!
White Shoe (2 weeks later): So, are you going sign up?
Money Hose: There’s one in Raleigh in May and… (insert b&*^^ excuses here).
White Shoe: Whatever. See you then.
March comes around and the guy in the Alabama hat decides that he’s going to start a death camp. Turns out that the 6-day a week F3 Raleigh training schedule is insufficient, and the horror show had only just begun.
Class 421 fired up the pain train and rolled into town sometime in early March with Floppy Disk at the helm. Now, mind you, Floppy Disk set his right shoulder on fire at some point. His sawbones must’ve forgot the fine print instruction of “do not exercise in the dark carrying heavy bags and telephone poles throughout greater Raleigh.” Floppy drove the bus on the first training date for what would become GORUCK Class 604. Everyone died.
White Shoe was hot on his heels. At some point the training pax bear crawled 920 feet up Hanover Street, in the shadow of Roanoke Park and the regularly scheduled Heavy Metal that would follow. Chong Li procured some left over telephone poles from an infrastructure project on the Malay peninsula that had been derailed by a parliamentary vote of no confidence for the then prime minister of Borneo. We don’t question his methods.
The telephone poles were heavy. They did not have a natural home. Neither M. Money Hose nor M. White Shoe seemed amenable to sacrificing the actual backyard for their storage. Chong Li is an innovator, and innovate he did. Said telephone poles found a home on the top deck of the NC State parking garage down the hill from the old Reynolds Coliseum. To disguise their presence, Chong Li ingeniously covered them up in part with 15 pounds of confiscated pine straw and at least three half smoked Marlboro Reds (“Now it looks like they’ve been there since the Les Robinson days…”). They remain there to this day.
In a further attempt to impose his self-loathing on others, White Shoe devised some sort of multidimensional nonsense at Shelly Park one morning. In the unlikely event that the forces of commercialized paramilitary training merged efforts and GORUCK became SEAL Fit, Mr. Shoe took the pax through the actual waters of Shelly Lake. Halfway through the mission, Chong led a breakaway unit through the surrounding forest looking for Colonel Kurtz. Fungo still refuses to discuss the event. YHC was absent from said amphibious efforts, but the reports reverberated through the F3 Raleigh workweek. For those who failed to contract a waterborne disease at Shelly Lake, White Shoe organized a flutter kick party in the actual ditch into which all runoff in the 27608 zip code drains below Pullen Park.
Specialized long-range efforts were also scheduled. Again, YHC only participated in part. By “in part”, YHC means, one Sunday afternoon, YHC was about to enjoy a steak sandwich with Money Hose 2.0 and 2.1 when a knock appeared at the door. In the front yard of Money Hose World Headquarters, Fungo and Utah stood. They said YHC needed to grab the weight vest and go to the Park. YHC did, under the auspices that they needed some help. What sort of help was lost on me. To my surprise, YHC saw the whole training pax at the head of Roanoke Park, carrying the aforementioned telephone poles. It turns out that the Dora the Explorer Outfit had carried said poles across the greater F3 Raleigh footprint, a mere 3 hours into what would become a 4.5 hour jaunt.
What do you do with 15 training pax, in black tactical gear, all carrying brick laden packs on a Sunday afternoon in a park filled with families? You play volleyball. A competitive game, no less. All hands mustered for volleyball, including Tecumseh. Tecumseh runs through walls for recreational fun. So, GORUCK training is easy for him. He changed that. Standing there in broad daylight, if the sight of tactical forces in the park was not enough, Tecumseh chose to wear a mask that limited his breathing to simulate higher altitude training. More importantly, said mask left our man Techumseh looking like a Hannibal Lechter/Bane hybrid who breathes like Darth Vader and talks like Kenny from South Park. If even that was not enough, F3 Raleigh paxer Ben Johnson visited the game as head referee, drum beater. Literally. Ben Johnson had just returned from a Y Guides event and mustered in his Y Guides vest, carrying a tribal drum. He laid a strong back beat for the high scoring affair. You better read this paragraph again. Paint the picture in your head. Needless to say, people gathered their kids and left the park post-haste.
As we brought it home towards May 25, the beatings in the vicinity of our usual parks continued. One morning, White Shoe thought it wise to revisit Hanover Street for another bear crawl marathon. Surely and quietly, the pax set up on the task at hand. The event was even more remarkable only in hindsight. The Subcommittee on Neighborly Relations provides the following actual email:
Date: April 25, 2013, 12:26:37 PM EDT
To: “Subject: barking last night
Hi guys – I’m taking care of Michele’s pets overnight – last night – and didn’t lock them in overnight since they get up wayyy earlier than I do.
You probably heard barking around 5:30 am. I looked out the front door and was speechless: there was a gorilla walking on all fours down the middle of Hanover. He walked about 15 feet and then stood up, ramrod straight. Then another and another, up to about 10 of them. One would walk, the next would stand up. It was the strangest sight.
As I came out of my sleep fog, I realized that they were all men, with backpacks on, all tall and built and were doing this walking very deliberately on their hands and feet. I swear I thought it was a Seal team or something, training like that, that early.
So, again sorry about the barking, but if we ever get invaded by gorilla’s we know we’ll be alerted.
In his never ending quest to keep the predawn pain interesting, White Shoe took to playing music on his electri-phone while the pax ripped out a particular, called exercise. This seems great on paper, except when you factor in that beer-soaked Alt Country bands from Tennessee play really long songs. The plan backfired one morning on the blacktop at Roanoke Park. During the ninth minute of hearing some guy lament lost love at Tootsie’s in downtown Nashville over a twanging guitar solo, the nonstop Mericans actually caused pectoris muscles to explode.
When all was said and done, the leader of the GORUCK training pax is to be commended. To a man, in the event, we felt over-trained to the good. King David puts it best:
Thanks to White Shoe for the training. The goal of any kind of training is to push yourself harder in training than you will be pushed in the event. The log carry day, log PT, and extended street length bear crawls were harder than any single thing we did at the GORUCK, and it helped.
Upon reflection, we were well prepared because White Shoe gave us his very best. If he ever stepped off the gas, Chong Li was right there next to him, screaming for more.
- The Forming–A Fresh Pair of Bad Idea Jeans
Except for the orchestrated nonsense discussed above, the hours and days before had been spent by each in his own way. There was an ever-present supply of Jedi-like descriptions about the event. White Shoe took a leave of absence from his job to actually move into the GORUCK website. Somewhere from afar, the granddaddy of the Jedis would chime in from the Tweeterverse with ‘dreddful’ words of encouragement. If ever the training started sounding reasonable, the Resident Mystic would inject something about a salt-filled cup to catapult the uninitiated into more self-reflection. The robed darkness of self-doubt might call in the hours before, but the men of F3 Raleigh who’d signed up for the challenge eventually dragged self-doubt in the street and left it for dead.
So we were off. Barreling through a Saturday night at Summer’s kickoff, check the gear one more time, reassure your wife that this was an entirely reasonable thing to do, notwithstanding the Death Waiver, find your ID, get your cash, lube up your toes (not a typo), and, in the grand Army tradition, hurry up and wait. Family and one F3 brother who may or may not have been in a Boy Band stood in the darkness with us at the launch. Our cadre had not yet arrived. There was time for standing around. And reflecting. A whole lot of reflecting in this one.
In the distance, a wood-paneled suburban built before they closed the Gross Pointe factory in ’89 emerged. Cadre Ben, Quiet Assassin, rolled in the understated way of a guy who was intimidated once in the 80s just to see how it felt. “Good evening, Gentlemen. Welcome to GORUCK…” That’s when it got real. According to Bob Villa, “Cadre Ben is not human.” 15 of us standing around. Looking for a wise numbers guy from Durham. All of the techno communication devices in the free world, and we couldn’t locate Abacus. Lo and behold, our Abacus himself was careening towards his date with destiny, stymied by mislaid IDs and logistics that made our heads spin. We only hoped that when he showed up, on the run, full bore, he would be ready to go. And he was.
The Riddle Doctor threatened to punish us all for Abacus’ tardiness. He then quickly admitted that this was GORUCK and if it wasn’t Abacus, we’d have been punished for the moon being full. It was full. And it shone on two hours of a Welcome Party that was not the kind of party you’d want to be invited back to.
First, there’s the equipment inspection. Seemingly painless. Except you just never know with the guy in the ball cap and the T-shirt. Might just jack us all up over mis-taped bricks. The first test? Passed with colors flying. The force is strong with these men. They can respond to basic instruction.
- The Welcome Party: Please Reflect on Your Bad Decisions
Off we go. Jack Webb? No, you don’t know him from school. You know him from some muggy park in Raleigh where you’d been doing Jack Webbs since the SnowRuck boys came home. Jack Webb will sneak up on you and beat you with the back of his hands. 3 Reps? No problem. 4 Reps? Is this a workout? 5 Reps? I can live without my shoulders. Just amputate them. Clean cut. I don’t need e’m. 8 Reps? Dear Lord. When will this end? Now mind you, we didn’t actually do Jack Webbs. We did Moron Webbs, thanks to aforesaid Resident Mystic, who helpfully volunteered, unprompted, that we could just do a 1 to 4 ratio of Mericans to Shoulder Presses. Why? Because the Resident Mystic is not bright. But he appreciates a challenge. Next thing we know, we are doing multiplication tables with the number 4. “32…9 Mericans…36 shoulder presses.” Because, kids, 4 X 8 is 32. 4 X 9 is 36. Pick up sticks (after you vomit). And Chong Li’s explaining it all to Cadre Ben as helpfully as a tour guide leading high school juniors around the Campus of Big State U. In a not unrelated point, King David’s ears actually caught on fire. The assault on the shoulders continued. High planks. Mericans. You name it. In less than 240 seconds, at least some of us were thinking “I might just fellowship run it back to the House and catch the Maize for the Early Bird….” For those scoring at home, we were still exactly in the place we started. Shoulder abuse concluded, we moved onto some Ab Work that would make Jane Fonda blush. Six Inches. 45 Degrees. Hello Dollies. 90 Degrees. Zero Degrees. Six Inches. Cue the Cadre “It’s only been 15 minutes, you’ve got 12 more hours of this. Better quit now…” Ab work. Work the abs. Let’s do some ab exercises. Are hernias contagious? Can I get a ruling? Where’s Tecumseh?
We quickly drilled down on whether we could count and exercise at the same time. Apparently, we could not. Something as simple as high planks with alternating left/right chest touch. Easy enough. Except, as I said, we can’t count. The quickly developing theme of the Welcome Party was “do it right. Or start over.” Still, we were in the same place.
Cadre Ben noted early that this was his third F3-related GRC. “You guys do some sort of military type training. You should be able to get this…” We did. In some sense. We had in fact formed two lines smartly and stood there eyes ahead, ready for whatever may come. Notable that he also said “None of this Aye stuff (ed. note: he did not say “stuff”). I hate that. If you do that, you will be punished.” We immediately formed an emergency subcommittee to clean up any wayward “Ayes…” (“He said All-right, you know “Ayeeeiiigght.”).
At some point, we moved. But only so much. We were directed to do something as simple and as basic as bear crawls. “I got this, bro.” “We’ve done this.” “Where’s the easy button?” In a word, we bear crawled approximately 17 feet before Cadre Ben called for some sort of exercise, the likes of which no human had seen since before they put Jack Lalane in the ground. The exercise involved bear crawling with your hands placed squarely on the ankles of the man ahead of you in the line. Setting aside the fear that YHC may have actually ripped Mighty Mite’s achilles tendons in half, we scored exactly 0.000 points on the bizzaro team bear crawl. That was absolutely impossible. The Reflections of White Shoe observe “Ankle bear crawls = physically impossible. Ben suggested otherwise at the ruckoff. I don’t believe him.” We were punished accordingly. We moved slower than molasses poured uphill in a snowstorm. We advanced–as a team–an astonishing distance of 3.403 inches.
Following the epic fail of Bizzaro Bear Crawls, Cadre Ben called for the Elephant Walk. Faster than Buck Rodgers’ realtime computations, M. TARP, Minnie and Mister Cinderella Father reached for the collective ejection handle. Can’t blame them. The elephant walk (sanitized) familiarized the pax with a circuitous route over the specially-cemented rocks of the Capitol ground sidewalks. Imagine power sanding your forearms…with a razor blade. The rocky road would reappear.
Cadre Ben surprised us with inchworms. At the time, we thought it was pity and mercy because “We got this. We know the inchworms. We’ve done this before.” We mustered into line. Loaded into the inchworm formation. Feet on the shoulders below us. Everyman brutally familiar with the below the sink workings of his fellow pax. We struggled to load the worm. But we did. The strains of “Free Ride…” started. We might have cranked out twelve or fifteen pushups. In good, solid respectable form for part-time warriors who have day jobs. Mental high fives all around. Until Cadre Ben stepped on Edgar Winter’s neck. “I appreciate the push ups. But that’s not why it’s called the Inchworm. And those weren’t really push ups…Start Over. And actually inch.” Stop the music. We then resumed the painstaking process of loading the worm and repeatedly driving our forearms into the mottled concrete of the capitol grounds as the inchworm came crashing down. Time after time. We fought for inches, repeatedly. Leaders stepped up to call the cadence and get us the 7 more inches that we needed to win this moment. A weird sound vacuum existed where the front of the line couldn’t hear the back and vice versa. All credit to the Old Davidsonian for calling a middle of the line cadence that at least we could all hear—after being mule-kicked in the head by Utah.
At some point in the inchworm festivities, a peddle-powered mobile bar occupied by 15 civilians, including the toughest, hardest tough guy [rolling away at 6 miles an hour in a peddle-powered mobile bar] you ever saw barked out something about the silliness we chose. We were unbowed. Cadre Ben considered but decided against a hard charge against said tough, hard tough guy [rolling away at 6 miles an hour in a peddle-powered mobile bar].
The Peddle-Powered Barker is a cousin of the telephone tough guy. But it is worth noting that, throughout the night, the toughest, hardest tough guys were usually the ones with a 20-something woman alongside. We may contact Montell Williams to explore that phenomenon. Uniformly, everyone else, without limitation, was at least supportive and at most awe-inspired. The latter goes for the bridal party near Landmark Tavern who, to a woman, was prepared to revive a dead TARP and take him with them to the next phase of their Last Hurrah. It must have been the blue head band our dead team leader wore.
Slowly and not so surely, we advanced the seven inches to Cadre Ben’s pack that was resting comfortably on the ground. The first instance of the Pax striking back occurred when point man T-Square may or may not have flatlined for a moment at the head of the line. We were instructed to bear crawl back to base camp. We quickly deduced that ole T-Square needed a breather. “Wait for the pax to pass by brother. Take your rest.” It seemingly worked for at least a bit.
The vindication of everyone’s favorite 117 lbs civil engineer is worth noting–in several instances over night, crafty paxers devised ways to steal a few moments of rest from the watchful eye of the Riddle Doctor. Now, mind you, Cadre Ben is paid by the United States Government to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, land in hostile areas, make friends and convince those friends to fight alongside the United States. YHC don’t know but expect that sometimes he’s not dealing with the fittest cats in the world, so he’s got some experience with PT under fire by folks looking to steal some rest. Along with that, he’s lead at least three GRCs–all to say I don’t think we ever exactly pulled a fast one on Cadre Ben. He’s probably seen the half push up, the zero inch leg lift, and the walking bear crawl. It didn’t stop us from tryin’, as good Good Uncle Dredd preaches.
A series of bear crawls around campus ensued. Crab walks, too. On the crab walks’ first pass around our little Merry Acres, inexplicably three ladies watched us from a bench on the grounds, only to evacuate quickly when point man Fungo approached. We struck back again by waiting from time to time for the line to catch up. Public reason: pax stays together. Private reason: rest on curb. Ponder bad decisions. Although I was delirious all night, Fungo points out that he and I completed a rare 100% business-speak conversation, from which we may have boiled the ocean, we may have sought paving stones, and we really found synergy through maximizing the paving stones forward.
Following the Zoo Theme, we were ordered to ruck around the Capitol four times. Somewhere between the crab walks and the Merry Go Round, Abacus’ pack exploded into approximately 5 parts. Cue the GORUCK-sponsored speech from Cadre Ben about using good equipment. Counting on your equipment. Loving your equipment. Abacus took it in stride and managed to carry the pack in broken form as we passed around the old stone house. Pax struck back with glacially slow walks on the backside of the building, where myself and others tried to fix a multifaceted pack using phantom electrical tape and a knife Chong Li received as a consolation prize for being passed over as the 187th Dalai Lhama. At some point, Cadre Ben said “there’ll be time later to un-break your gear [Ed. Note: He did not say “un-break”].”
The gear was un-broke [Ed. Note: it would be more accurate to say something other than “un-broke”]. Jack of All Trades Mr. Robert Villa fixed it in manners unknown. In all seriousness, there was no issue with the fixed pack ever again. Tclaps to that guy. He’s a handy beast. That knowledge would become heavy later. Somewhere in the darkness, YHC’s F3 name was rechristened “Bunny Hose” by Cadre Ben. F3 Rule 3.45(g) precludes any objection.
Before we mobilize our narrative away from the Capitol grounds, fair to point out that there was one more Pax who was with us for the duration last Saturday night. Our man Floppy D, who’s been patiently waiting on IR for approximately 16 weeks, chose against all good judgment to follow us around throughout the night. His pictures and video appear alongside this verbal effort. Tclaps to the Flops. Two things about Flops: i) we are pretty sure the Floppy D Jedi mind tricks distracted Cadre Ben from at least 5.67% of the beatings he would have dealt; and ii) we went through the night with a lingering fear that our beloved brother was at least physically capable of saying a tad too much. Nonetheless, that man Floppy D is inspiration at all times. Last Saturday, he was as much one of us as any of us could be. Tclaps Floppy D. Tclaps.
The spirit of the brotherhood was coursing through our veins at this point. Johnny Utah’s account of the zen-like Resident Mystic is worth repeating verbatim:
“During the smoke session they call the welcome party my mind starting churning. As we lay down on that [ed. Bogus] they call pavement out front of the Capitol and Cadre Ben said “on your backs” I had some doubt set it. And it was like Chong could smell it, because just as I thought [ed. Freak] another 11 hours and 57 mins Chong said to me “Utah isn’t it crazy that they built the capital building out of legos ?” and from that moment forward I started to practice some of that zen [ed. Stuff]. I immediately came to the conclusion that my mind for the past 3 min had been the teacup and really it was the lake. I made a commitment to myself that this [ed. Stuff] wasn’t about me it was about helping my brothers in the way Chong had just set my mind at ease. I’m not saying I wasn’t in an enormous amount of pain but I sure wasn’t paying attention to it anymore and I think that is true meaning of embracing the suck.”
- We Are Going to Move–The Feminine Mystique Has No Power Over Grizzly Bears
Team leaders TARP and navigator Robert Villa were appointed after a brief break at the Capitol where the pax to a man wolfed down space-shuttle caliber protein loads. Chong Li and Utah ground up coffee beans Chong Li bartered for a Chilean goat the last time he was in South America. We didn’t ask.
Teams form up. We meet our coupons. These were not deal-savers at the A&P. 4-5 gallon Gerry Cans. One ammunition box. Let’s throw it to Cinderella for some color on the ammo box made for travel: “You can totally be unaware of that effect if you allow an ammo can to cut off circulation to your hands.” And one classified hard drive that the United States Government had asked us to safely deliver to an undetermined public park or parks in the City of Raleigh. The hard drive could not be dropped or set down for the duration. To the untrained eye, it looked like a mid-90s television. It was a hard drive. And it was important. Back to Cinderella: “Military people refer to TVs as hard disks.”
We embarked south across the Capitol grounds towards Chavis Park. It must have been midnight or later. We were instructed that the friendlies would get nervous (and we would get punished) if we failed to adhere to arcane traffic laws. This provided a perfect outlet for Wonk’s repressed Cary Homeowners Association Concerned Citizen. Approximately 23 seconds after said instruction, we crossed against the light, and TARP got dead. Apparently, 16 men cannot sprint in an orderly fashion across a standard-width city street in 3 seconds. Who knew?
Fazio rushed into the vacancy after lost TARP. We did not know when we hoisted the TARP on our shoulders that the Powers of Greyskull had morphed TARP into a self-animated ventriloquist dummy. TARP chattered on, enjoying all that we saw. We found ourselves then at the Sitti Restaurant in downtown Raleigh, where Fazio had keenly acted on the orders to fill the Gerry Cans at the first opportunity. The friendly neighborhood hipsters at Sitti OKed our re-fill, which gave us a moment to reflect on the grand central station of Raleigh night life. TARP, our dead leader, revived like Lazarus and was conversing comfortable until we sniffed out the risk of a beating. TARP was quickly reminded that he was dead and he would have to sit. He did not sit. He sat in an imaginary chaise lounge on the street corner, wearing his head lamp backwards such that he looked like David Hasselhoff in a blue head band. The chatter continued unabated. At some point, we noticed the first of the many women who took a keen interest in what a bunch of orderly beefcakes in black tactical shirts were doing ignoring them. This could not stand, and the ladies buzzed by repeatedly, doing everything short of actually proposing to TARP to get noticed. Fazio, our resident old man, responded to the sprayprainted mini-dresses that pass for club clothes with a “In my day, women wore burlap sacks…” The ladies were unphased. A key tip from Cinderella: “If you want to pick up girls: find a group of men, dress in tight uniforms, get sweaty, and don’t pay attention to them. Or, if you want respect from dudes who roll tatted up, blasting b-side rap in their Caddys alone on their way back from bars, do the same thing.”
The water jugs were filled. Chong Li, Utah and Cinderella honored the Hipster Code by exchanging multi-stepped handshake hugs with the hipsters and we were off. This negotiating with locals must be exactly like what Cadre Ben does. We proceeded towards Moore Square, where the bridal party fell into close formation alongside and asked “Can you all carry us????” Almost immediately, Au Pair teleconferenced in from Au Pair World Headquarters and negotiated a mixer TBD.
Crossing Moore’s Square, we pressed on with Fazio at the helm towards Chavis Park. Somewhere, a passer by shouted “What Fraternity y’all in? Answer: Life.” Hard drive, water jugs and such in tow, we made decent time. But time at GORUCK is all relative. Chewy astutely reminded YHC at some point that watches at GORUCK get people killed. We had no sense of time and we moved in an orderly and safe fashion. We eventually reached Chavis Park, although as the reader might guess, no one really had a clue how to get to Chavis Park in the dead of night. We may have caught some heat on the time hack, but we didn’t care. We were there.
- Chavis–The Constellation Urine Is Visible Over Head
Arriving at Chavis Park, we quickly mustered for another bear crawl down ’round the drain. We are smart men and we struck again–T Square and Sproles secured the rear on our downward bear crawl. After a bit, we quickly realized that Cadre Ben did not in fact have camera sensors at this unmarked drain in the middle of a vacant park. T-Square and Sproles cut that last corner on instruction from the group, and we were a band of brothers back up that hill. The mention of camera sensors brings up an interesting observation from Mighty Mite on the high-level security on-site at Chavis Park:
At the first park we arrived to, I noticed a security car driving through the parking lot while we were taking a water break. What didn’t look suspicious about our group?!? 18 men all decked out in black with a menagerie of unsavory toys, hanging out next to a merry go round at 1 AM…..How we avoided a call to the RPD is beyond me.
Our self-congratulatory marveling at the warrior ingenuity employed to give our boys a rest was short-lived. Cadre Ben told us to muster at the picnic tables for some water. We did. When we got there, we were one awe-inspiring warrior brother short. The mind games continued. Off in the distance, down the Hill, there appeared another Cadre in the darkness. He was going to rush us Last of the Mohicans-style. This is what we trained for, men. But it wasn’t. It was Fazio. He had to go to the bathroom. We let him down by failing to count on the move, but you wouldn’t believe it asking our good and humble brother. Our reward for being stupid and not watching his back, was more bear crawls. But we had our redemption. We got our guys down and around in short order.
We found ourselves at the picnic table in peace. Water for all. Space shuttle food for all. We all got partners. YHC got Utah. More on that later. Our hearts were filled with an unnecessary speech from Fazio about his entirely excusable mistake. We came to find out later that the poor brother didn’t even get it to take that leak. (White Shoe: “Everyone at chez Fazio has been a little freaked out that he makes someone go to the bathroom with him every time.”). You can bet when he was done with that speech, we all knew that we were going the distance. This group. These men. We could have bear crawled to Wilmington after Fazio told us it was so. There’s strength in that man. We immediately ordered “WWFD” bracelets from Amazon.com. Chong Li strung together some words that capture the legend that is David Fazio Moreau: “Fazio understands how to ‘lead from the back’ and that ‘the last shall be first,’ better than anyone I’ve ever met.”
- Orders to Move
At this point in the night, the rhythm of our ruck movements was falling fast in place. You put a bunch of smart guys with a can-do attitude in one place, and the world watches out. We devised a shorter trip back to Moores Square. We developed a smooth rotation on the Gerry Cans that would make the Olympic baton pass look chunky. We rotated the team weight with precision. Last of all, though, we honored every traffic ordinance in this State down to the last subparagraph. And still, guys like Cinderella and Bob Villa found ways to stand out, for their willingness to carry the load and then some. We were stymied near Chavis Park by a traffic light that rolled 4 cycles before it acknowledged our presence. Somewhere in the transit, we passed a low-slung craftsman home with a man in a backpack standing on the porch. He was not, in fact, a fellow GORUCKer looking for a class. We invited. He demurred. He did say “Respect, Gentlemen. Much respect.” YHC doesn’t know what was in his backpack, but, in Utah’s words, “East Raleigh dudes are all right in my book…”
- Moore Square Park–Bring on the Drunk Courage
We arrived at Moore Square in short order. We were hazed on the Time Hack. But we were proud. Moores Square is a Star Wars bar in the daylight. Even moreso at that dark hour. We mustered up and paid for tardiness with 30 burpees. Cadre Ben cut a filter off his Red and we then played a little Infantry Tactic Trivia. Question: Where does the leader lead? Answer: Not the Garrison. Thank all that we didn’t say that. We did say “from the front…” which is what we learned from John Wayne. But, alas, this was a serious question and needed a serious answer. We convened in a huddle and came up with our answer. Turns out. No. In the middle. The leader leads from the middle. Ironic that we missed that one given that no one could hear cadence calls from one end to the other. Our punishment was a healthy 30 burpees. At this point, YHC confirmed through first hand that 30 burpees with 25 lbs of change in a Bob Villa-fashioned inner tube slung around my neck is at least 3 circles closer to He*&# than Bear Gorilla Bear. King David concurs. Somewhere in the darkness, another character materialized. This character would be the “Healthy Confidence Friendly Drunk Guy” who saunters as the speaking captain for the drunks. “Say, What are y’all up to?” The Quiet Assassin who is shot at for a living was noncommittal.
- On the Road Again
We formed up under Wonk’s steady command and headed North on Wilmington Street. Off to the homeland of Fletcher Park we were. Our trek took us past Government buildings and our launch point. Wonk had the helm steady and we moved right along. By this time, Class 604 was as smooth as a hot knife through butter. We turned west on Peace Street nearing 2 AM. If T-Square and Sproles ever finish the time machine, I’d go back and administer a flying elbow to the traffic planner who put a crosswalk nearly halfway back up Salisbury Street. That poor planning by some guy 30 years ago caused us to have to backtrack a bit, which wore heavily on this point man. But we got across the government grounds in smooth order.
By the time we passed onto Peace Street proper, it was in the bag, so to speak. At what must have been 2:03 AM, a cavalcade of cars proceeded in front of us near the crossing of West Street. Utah fired up the 20 Something Translator and deduced that the bars had closed and the cavalry was headed to the after party. The Telephone Tough Guy’s Cousins reappeared, along with the longing women. They were all ignored.
We crossed under the railroad trestles and west towards Glenwood. At that point, the Odyssey characters started to materialize. Somewhere near the club where White Shoe used to do site inspections, a nice young lady who had plenty of Club Sodas had taken up a perch on the ground outside the club to burn some tobacco. We think it was tobacco. We don’t know for sure, but her sidekick does. When YHC says sidekick, YHC means sleazy looking guy who was waiting in the wings in case the stock started to rise on his late-hour friendship. “Garbage Goal” is one term that should at least be considered.
We pressed up to Glenwood Avenue. By this time, the bars were closed, and we were honoring traffic laws like the Law of Moses. We mustered on the corner. The Nonexistent Floppy Disk sprinted forward into the street to take a pretty good snap of the pax as we waited for the light cycle.
We crossed the street and nearly overshot what would have been our only crosswalk between there and Five Points. This would have been a disaster. We would have had to ruck to the Point to cross, high fived some guy in boat shoes and a pair of Costas, and rucked back to Fletcher. YHC was saved by my brothers on that one. We moved in short order down to Washington Street, where our dear old Fletcher Park stood silently to welcome us back into her arms.
- Fletcher Park–Three Weeks In, Au Pair Still Manning the Tomato Hunt Stakeout
Inexplicably, we were ordered to muster, lay down in the tall grass, and roll over. We rolled a lot. Left. Right. Left. Left. Right. That interlude ended. We were given rest. First, 16 of 16 pax had to take a leak. Except for Fazio. Who refused on principle. At that point, I had seen the movie and I knew that I wouldn’t let down Mr. Fazio. So YHC grabbed my partner, Jonathan Utah, and we went to pee. YHC cannot understand why anyone found it funny to see the two of us running towards the bullfrog pond holding hands. There’s no humor in that at all.
By this point in the night, we were locked in. Packs in laps. Jokes. Water. Food. This continued near the yard art at Fletcher until we got wise. We all formed up and hustled back to the Shovel Flag. Don’t leave the Shovel Flag. We didn’t. Meanwhile, Cadre Ben was pondering creation on the dockside near bullfrog pond. He also appeared to be using his Electri-Phone to locate the nearest municipal park in Wendell.
Mighty Mite took the helm from Wonk. Wonk coined a solid nickname in its own right. After conferring with Cadre Ben, Wonk called for “Magic Mike.” For those of you unfamiliar with the latest Channing Tatum vehicle, Magic Mike is not a superhero, or an eight year old Pop Warner football star. Magic Mike is a private dancer. He dances for money. He does what you want him to do. Mighty Mite properly baptized, he took the helm for the march to Jaycee Park.
- Jaycee Park By Way of Broughton High School & Cameron Village Shopping Center
The hike to Jaycee Park was our finest collective effort. The rhythm of the Wonk Enterprise carried over, and Mighty Mite made us all proud by leading from the middle, with a steady and calm hand. His ability to fold seamlessly into our team as the lone representative from the Queen City was outstanding. The most specifically outstanding moment was his willingness to defer to the guys in the group who could plot the course. He gave us time to navigate and even adjust course based on what we knew would be the flattest path. King David stepped up and improved the course that YHC called, and we were at Jaycee in very short order. The adjustment took us through Cameron Village, where a lone crane extended approximately 300 feet into the air. A full moon illuminated a single Old Glory streaming vigorously in the higher-altitude winds. We should also say that Mighty Mite has Lou Ferrigno caliber strength, which helped.
The actual approach to Jaycee was indeterminate at first, given that YHC knew of a side entrance in a neighborhood. Bob Villa volunteered that he knew of some sort of magical path that would significantly cut down the travel time. The issue was in doubt until Fazio and Villa together confirmed the adjusted course, based on Fazio’s assertion that he had a dentist friend who can walk from his office on Oberlin to Jaycee via Bob Villa’s Magical Path. Two independent sources of intel was good enough for Captain Mite, and off we went. The path would come back to haunt us.
- Jaycee and Rest
We arrived at Jaycee with Mite’s full-throated report to Cadre Ben “Cadre, we have arrived at Jaycee Park.” Response: “Yes you have, and it is splendid.” Well done, men. We immediately took our loads off and ate space food and drank electrolyte-filled water. White Shoe did yeomen’s work distributing water to all. Meanwhile, Cadre Ben rested with the quiet peace of someone who’s rested against a tree in the dark hundreds of times before.
A healthy dose of jokes followed as we really drilled down on what exactly drove Chong Li to fashion facial hair that would make’em blush at even a Mini-Mart in Gatlinburg. There was some sort of bizarre Samson and his hair thing going on. “The Cuisinarted Goatee gives me strength…”
- We Are Moving. We are Down One.
By this point in the exercise, the wind was behind us. Mighty Mite took the helm anew and YHC plotted a course for Wendell Gee’s backyard at Rothgeb Park. We crossed traffic lights brilliantly, waived at the obviously impaired folks driving at a grave risk to themselves and others. As Utah points out, we “learned that when you drink and drive at 4am you are far more obvious then you believe yourself to be.”
At exactly the moment YHC said “Guys, we’ve got a long way to go to Rothgeb….,” a subtle question was raised by Cadre Ben. “Have you guys got everything?” “Yep.” We then naively but resolutely counted our gear…and…wait…counted…our guys—we’re missing Villa. We turned the battleship around headed back to Jaycee Park. We’d only made it a tenth of mile away from Jaycee, but we had seen the movie and knew the plane was gonna crash–. Mighty Mite astutely led a four man team back to Jaycee, while the rest of the pax held the corner.
The four man team descended into Jaycee only to find a standing but dead Bob Villa in the darkness. So began the sleigh ride that was Bob Villa’s patient suffering as a fully conscious dead guy. Mr. Robert Villa is not slight of frame. Three of us took turns carrying him, with one of us carrying his pack. Seemingly, the most efficient mode of travel was a Chariot of Fire that seemed to cause all shoulders to burn, along with the entirety of Robert Villa. Villa was stoic to the end and resolutely rode in an uncomfortable manner so that his brothers might bear a lesser load. Fair to point out at this point that 20-somethings participate in our merry band because they are all patient Oxen. No complaints from any of Abacus, Utah, Villa or Cinderella as they shouldered a heavy load, not having the crossed the great divide that is the thirtieth year.
We pressed for Rothgeb slowly but surely. This was a labor of love. It’s almost as though we had passed so well to that point that we were saddled with a surly contractor to remind us that things don’t always go as planned. Paraphrasing Utah, this would have been the point where we civilians realize that fate breaks badly in the field, soldiers die, and the rest are left to pick up the pieces. Because failure is not an option. Performing under every, not just most, scenarios is the burden our soldiers and Marines face every day. We won’t forget.
- Outpost Rothgeb
During the transit to Rothgeb, Mighty Mite continued to make us proud. We pressed up Oberlin, down Fairview for a short cup of coffee, before barreling at glacial speed down St. Mary’s towards Anderson. This was a long haul to beat long hauls. The birds were chirping and the sun was rising. Time was arbitrary but we knew the papers had been delivered. We pressed up White Oak to Rothgeb and into the bottom land that is the park within earshot of Wendell Gee’s band’s garage sessions.
We hit Rothgeb with instruction from Cadre Ben to form a base camp with a secure perimeter formed by two-man teams spaced approximately 30 yards apart. A rotating opportunity to refill water would occur in the center. Easy enough. Cadre Ben went on a walkabout while we formed up.
Many of us had been to the rodeo long enough with Cadre Ben to know that all was not as it seemed. We lost sight of him rather quickly. YHC and the indefatigable Jonny Utah, he of the hand hold, took the perimeter facing Crabtree Creek. Words cannot express the heightened state of alert YHC and others practiced. In some small part, YHC can understand better now that pulling security on a perimeter isn’t so much about the ultimate mission as it is about making sure that you don’t let your guys down. YHC counted every leaf on every tree within a quarter mile line of sight of my perimeter, checking and rechecking White Shoe and Sproles on the left. Lack of sleep and the paramilitary nature of the training had my mind full of visions of Cadre Ben charging ahead Last of the Mohicans style, emerging from the creek bottom to scalp Utah and leave me carrying him home. Worse yet, YHC figured that this was the mother of all mind busters and perhaps the other GORUCK cadre would emerge unannounced to kill us all. Needless to say, my Red Dawn dreams were shattered when Utah said calmly, “I see him.” Instantly, YHC raised his make believe M-4 Carbine and prepared to defend the position. It turns out, Ben was walking to take a rest. Utah: “Dude. I see him.” Me: “Where? Chambering a make believe round” Utah: “Dude. He’s sleeping on that bench.” Oh. We immediately went back to Defcon 3.
At some point, Cadre Ben signaled for us to join him. Enough of us had seen “Hot Shots: Part Deux” to know this was a trap. We sent a four man team to investigate while the rest of us held the perimeter. I wasn’t there for the conversation, but it must have gone something like this:
Cadre Ben: Why aren’t you all here?
Scouts: “We’re holding our perimeter.”
Cadre Ben: “You guys are idiots. Get your guys here.”
Scouts: hollering across the Park “Hey Guys…get over here…”
By the time we found Cadre Ben, he had advanced to a bridge across Crabtree Creek. He quickly descended into the creek bottom, not before calling out “That’s a big water moccasin.” At this point, only Floppy Disk was forward, and Floppy tried to get a picture. In hindsight, Floppy testifies there was a big snake lounging peacefully on the bank. When we approached, he skipped out.
Cadre Ben instructed us all to get into the fast-moving water and rest. Not really. He said “Pushups.” To a man, we waded into knee deep fast moving water under the bridge and assumed the collective push up position. Trying not think about the water moccasin swimming between your legs is like telling a 3 year old not to imagine an elephant in the bathtub.
By this time, Cadre Ben had moved to the bridge overhead, along with Floppy Disk. We were left to our own devices to push’em out. At first, at least, YHC looked like a 3 year old trying to navigate a Water Familiarity Course at the local YMCA. YHC then heard Cadre Ben call out “I see a lot of dry hair down there…” At this point, we all went all in. The liquefied sewage and runoff that drains all of Raleigh passed in one ear and out the other. The pushups were fun enough, and then Cadre Ben called for flutter kicks. That may have been worse psychologically because flutter kicks in water are not that hard and the lack of exertion leaves plenty of mental horsepower to ponder what a water moccasin bite feels like underwater. At some point in the departure from the creek, Fungo brushed harmlessly against White Shoe’s leg. Fungo can take it from there:
White Shoe is one of the toughest men I know, and might even top the list after this weekend. But for all his toughness, he will freak out at the thought of neighboring water moccasins, as evidenced by a light accidental bump into his leg while doing clutter kicks in Crabtree Creek.
King David, being a lifer Inside the Beltline, gives some more perspective on the Dealer’s Choice of bacteria that we sampled creek side:
I’ve lived the majority of my life very close to Crabtree Creek. That thing has so much sewage in it, if your football bounces in the creek you just give up the football. It’s too dangerous to touch the ball again. Now I’ve gone underwater swimming in that creek with water moccasins. #thingsididn’tthinkiwouldbedoingat34
A closing thought on Crabtree Creek, under duress in the field, the simple needs of man take precedence. Somewhere in the lore of the SnowRuck, there was apparently a speech from Dredd about the silliness of over-hydration and having to urinate every 7 minutes. It seems all of us were ever conscious of getting killed for taking a leak. Witness the handhold at Fletcher Park, the Fazio MIA at Chavis, and a story from T-Square that will follow. At Crabtree Creek, Utah was the first to multi-task and launched a warm springs right there for all of us to appreciate. Given the liquid science project in Crabtree Creek’s waters, a healthy shot of ammonia probably helped our cause.
We emerged from Crabtree Creek using a man-by-man bank climb that was greatly aided by the ingenuity of our reincarnated leader, TARP. The magical powers of the headband hadn’t left him, and he thought our way of a tricky spot. The bank was about 12 feet steep and coated in buttered ice. We flailed a bit until TARP innovated and used a random log to create a step that greatly expedited the exfiltration (see what we did there. That’s some techno speak). Man by man, we emerged intact. It would have been a real downer to lose someone to a snake bite.
We returned to the entry point at Rothgeb for some story time with Cadre Ben. He acknowledged the cold. Pointed out that his memories of Army training always include some variant of “I’ve never been this cold in my life.” We made small talk about Ben’s role in the Special Forces, and we shivered. Bone crushing shivering from every man. But no one complained. At one point, I thought, am I the only one who’s this bad off? Nay. I looked at King David who was suffering a full on seizure, silently. There are moments in life when you know you’re surrounded by stalwarts. I was.
Story time also gave us a little geopolitical assessment from Uncle Cadre Ben. What follows is Cinderella’s painstaking account of the nuanced take offered on Afghanistan as our teeth shook:
“[Ed. Freaking] Afghanistan is a [ed. Freaking] mess. We should’ve [ed. Freakin’] gone in there [Ed. Freaked] [Ed. Stuff] up, [Ed. Freakin’] left then [Ed. Freakin’] gone back in [ed. Freaked] shit up again instead of [Ed. Freakin’] staying there. Those people live like they did [Ed. Freakin’] 1500 years ago.”
- Making the Turn for Home.
After our fireside chat, sans fireside, concluded, we mustered up again for a hike back towards downtown. Warmth returned. Again, we were at our finest in movements as a group. Later that day, Cadre Ben would complement our team for the fact that no man shirked on carrying the loads. Whoever among the pax came up with the Free Drop style of water can management is a genius. The beauty of the approach is that two pax would farmer’s carry two cans a piece. When arms turned to fire, all you had to do was drop the can and roll out of the line. The man behind you would seamlessly pick up the cans and keep moving. This rotation worked throughout the day. We considered employing the Free Drop on Mister Robert Villa, but decided against it in very close, along-party-lines vote.
We pressed about 5 houses up Rothgeb Drive, bearing in mind the instruction from Cadre Ben that we had to refill our water cans. Quick thinking took us to the unoccupied Casa de Wendell Gee. Wendell Gee was, of course, with us in spirit. By this actual time, he was probably asleep in Duck, North Carolina. We mustered as a group into his and M. Wendell’s drive way, while Fungo and Utah sortied around back to reload from the Wendell Gee spigot. Thankfully, no neighbors called the coppers. Although our evidence is only anecdotal, one theory is that the massive, Afghanistan veteran American flag on a shovel at the head of our column deterred the wrong conclusions. Another reason for non-neighbor or law enforcement interference throughout the night might be that were the definition of not stealth. Tactical black gear to a man, but weren’t exactly ninjas moving through the streets. Worst case, a peering neighbor might think, these guys are demonstrably bad cat burglars, and therefore present no real threat.
We marched with a strong pace out of Rothgeb, to Anderson, to White Oak, to Sunset. We passed White Shoe’s house to port, and it was a downhill run from there.
- Roanoke Park & Proctor Floppy Disk.
As we bounded down Fairview, we saw our old stomping ground of Roanoke Park. We passed it to port. Cadre Ben called us back. The order was 30 burpees—back to the backtop where White Shoe had previously convened his own private Bonaroo. Cadre Ben had to take care of some unplanned business. Floppy Disk was left to proctor.
We formed up in the usual two lines and started the burpees. The team weight—the 25lbs of change that we’d been carrying in a refashioned innertube all night—was passed among the pax on 5 count intervals. That thing was a beast way back at Moores Square. YHC can only imagine the neck strain after dawn. We finished a creaking, painful series of burpees and formed up, headed back towards the growing Raleigh skyline.
- What Day is It?
We made the executive decision that a southward ruck down Capital Blvd was A-OK, given the expected light traffic on a Sunday morning. It was either later than we thought, or the downtown hipsters had decided en masse to head for suburban churches. Traffic whizzed by at breakneck speeds, as we made our way southward. Earlier in the night, YHC had devised the First Law of Pedestrian Crossings Absent Crosswalks. That little known, and completely made up, maxim saved us many times when there wasn’t a crosswalk for miles: “It’s lawful to cross a street if there’s a wheelchair ramp down from one curb cut across to the other.” That maxim was fully employed careening down Capital Boulevard. At two points, the crossings of onramps was dangerous enough that the point men decided the flag bearer would simply stand in the middle of the ramp to wave the flag at oncoming cars, daring them to stop. 5th grade crossing guards have nothing on GORUCK 604.
We left our peaceful jaunt on Capital Boulevard and descended down onto Peace Street, for one return pass under the railroad trestle. We revisited the dislocated crosswalk and ascended up onto the legislative quadrangle. At some point, someone said “great direct route to the Capitol, but that grass is begging for pain…” Said someone had some foresight.
- Obi Wan Wasn’t Quite Through With Us.
We mustered at the north end of the massive quadrangle that approaches the Legislative Building from the north. The capitol dome can be seen in the distance. We sat for a brief fireside chat before we embarked on partner carries. There may or may not have been a micro mind buster about “being done…”
Partner carries. A buffet of bad options there. Either, you hoist your man over the shoulder and fireman’s carry halfway down the field. Or you piggy back Bobby Petrino style. Neither is particularly appealing. YHC was partnered with T Square, who volunteered something to the effect of “Just saying…I seriously might pee on you.” Excellent. In a not unrelated story, YHC ran a 3.9 second, 40 yd dash with T Square on my shoulder. Wonk carried the Not So Big But Still Awfully Big for Bobby Petrinos Mister Sproles. It was inspiring. Cinderella puts Wonk’s feats with Sproles into perspective:
When Sproles grunts “[Ed. Freak]” several times in rapid succession his pack is about hit the ground and if you are between him and the Earth gravity is not your friend. Prepare accordingly.
T Square then carried me on the return leg, and inspired us all with the grit and determination that he drew on all night. Somewhere in the last little bit, T Square, full bladder and all, was punching us in from about the 4-yard line. Engine 1 failed. Engine 2 went down. We lost the stabilizer. The wing fell off. We were going down. The next thing you knew, the two of us were in a heap at the feet of Cadre Ben, tasting the well-kept turf with our eyeballs. We may have crashed, but it was only a matter of time now.
We moved on to an old Maize favorite: “He sees me…I up….I’m down…” Two assault forces consisting of the toughest, hardest civilians in the ZIP code at that moment pressed line by line down the legislative field. The bad guys saw us from time to time, but not before we saw them first. We were up. We were down. The water cans. The ammo cans. They all went with us. We didn’t lose anyone. And we took that field. We then did it all again.
By the time we returned, Cadre Ben had heard from Division intel. Apparently, friendlies in the area had devised an ex-fil route back to our LZ. A helicopter would extract us at the appointed hour. Two problems with the mission: first, the hard drive was no longer needed. Bummer for our hands. We had to abandon it in the right place. Second, we had to plot our course by the minute to ensure that the helo was not: i) out of gas; and ii) exposed in the field waiting for our merry band of brothers. Our course would involve crawling through tunnels revealed by the friendlies. Cadre Ben waited a beat during the explanation and said “Don’t get too excited. There aren’t any actual tunnels…”
First mission: getting rid of the Sony hard drive(that was cable and antenna ready). 4 man team departs back down the stairs to the north. Money Hose. Fungo. T Square and Mighty Mite. T Square had ulterior motives. We moved quickly down the stairs. We were looking even for a drop spot where YHC could return later in his own helicopter (read: 2004 GMC Yukon) to do away with the incriminating evidence. Almost immediately, we found a lidded trash can that was made to measure to hold one 1990s era Sony “flat screen” television. Problem? Solve it. Gone. And Done. Thinking that we’d made out like bandits and would loiter a bit to press back for the group, we exhaled. And then we saw T Square. Playing the role of a Renaissance cherub at Trevi Fountain, T Square was dealing with the Constellation Urine problem that had vexed Fazio earlier in the day/night/whatever. He did so in the highest profile manner possible by climbing a retaining wall and casting caution, and something else, to the wind. Any mild-mannered Sunday church goers passing south on Salisbury Street would have come to know T Square fully.
We hustled back to the pax, where time bidding on the next mission was underway. The second mission was to move as a tactical group in “He sees me” fashion to the end of the quadrangle and then to bear crawl around the Legislative Building, up the Halifax pedestrian mall and onto home base. Easy enough in theory. Wild time guesses were thrown about; we settled on one hour, which at the time seemed monstrously conservative.
- And Down the Stretch They Come
We embarked. The “He Sees Me..” was ably lead by Fazio and others. When we arrived at the pedestrian causeway, the only thing to do was to drag the ammo cans and the water buckets across the slate grounds of the Legislative Building. YHC stepped out of character for a moment to ensure that we didn’t actually damage state government property. In a nod to this reality, the pax ably hand-walked the ammo can in slow and steady fashion, passing to the west around the building. Each man met his demon on that crawl, but we got there. With colors flying. Bob Villa’s head nearly exploded from being in such close proximity to the offices of so many government employees. Our spirits were buoyed at this point by the appearance of the All American Banker William Maize Cobb, blazer and all, there to cheer us through to the end.
When we reached the south side of the building, only a casual walk across Jones Street and another crawl stood before us. Cadre Ben played Let’s Make a Deal. We could trade one burpee for one concrete square of real estate on our final march. Cooler heads prevailed and we quickly realized that would total an additional 1,532 burpees. Abacus is still running those numbers. We stuck with the bear crawls.
Innovation is borne out of necessity. Throughout this whole exercise, the group functioned as one body, with 16 heads and 16 hearts. Whenever a member of the group faltered, the rest found ways to lessen the load. Prime examples abound from that last little stretch of real estate. Fazio worked his way silently in the back, encouraging the rear guard when it was needed. TARP and Cinderella innovated by suggesting that the most tired among us bear crawl with the water cans, which could be slid across the cement tile like shuffleboard disks. The ammo can was moved in shorter legs as the road grew longer. Special mention goes to King David and White Shoe for shepherding the turn for home around the building. The final part with the ammo can consisted of White Shoe and Bob Villa pulling it oxen style up the pedestrian mall. By White Shoe’s own account, Mr. Bob Villa is an actual ox.
16 brothers climbed up that last hill with family and friends looking on. YHC saw his wife and baby. Missing was a yellow-haired engineer. YHC scanned to the top of the capitol grounds to notice a giant human being in full UNC basketball warm ups standing next to said engineer. Immediate thought “Great of Brian Bersticker to show up…” Alas it was Au Pair. Fully mobilized in support of our team. So, too, was Tecumseh with his merry band of children. Minnie, too. The Rock of Maize. Wives and girlfriends abounded. Utah’s girlfriend even brought along the family pooch, who, moved by the spirit and being Utah’s dog, was pushing SUVs through the capitol grounds.
If there was one lasting image from that last ascent, and maybe from the whole night, it was the sight of T Square and Sproles, two warriors of men, who had given this group and this moment all of it is that we have to give. They had dragged themselves with full hearts through the whole course. The last little bit was taken on fumes. Still with Fazio in support, and TARP and Wonk alongside. Chong Li may have said it best about Sproles: “Big Sproles…proved that the reason he was given the strength and size that he possesses is that it was the only carriage capable of transporting a heart of his magnitude.”
When our pax crossed Edenton Street en masse, we opened up on the run. A full bore run to the start point, where all of the eyewitnesses to the transformation that F3 brings to our lives stood to welcome us back from yet another test of the mettle that makes us Men.
- A 2 inch by 1.5 inch Piece of Cloth
We mustered one last time. It was a bright, shining mid-morning. Cadre Ben instructed us to set down our rucks. One by one, he gave each man a patch that signified what we did and what we can do. There is simplicity and peace and strength and all of those things in the power of the brotherhood. It is wrong to view GORUCK as separate and apart from F3. It is not. What we did that night on those streets, together, through bloody knees, and the errant forehead gash, is an extension of what we do each morning around Raleigh. The whole notion of F3 is premised on the strength of your fellow men drawing out the strength in you. That strength has always been with you; your brothers help you find it. GORUCK 604 so testifies.
- Epilogue: Utah Wears Smoke-able Shoes
A few of us were able to continue the party at one heckuva intergalactic kegger at White Shoe’s house. Jokes and delirium ensued. Cadre Ben joined the event for a while. Utah wore a pair of shoe he personally cobbled from local, sustainably-grown, organic hemp—the Chonger was intrigued.
The details will simply have to wait, but White Shoe put it well when he noted that it means something to have spent this Memorial Day weekend with someone who does not think of the day in abstract terms—but instead in terms of the names and faces of the brothers lost. May they rest in peace. All of them. Finis.
- Reflections of the Brotherhood
You’d have to read about 65 e-mails sent over the course of the week to fully account for the reflections of the indomitable GORUCK 604, but here is a flavor, man by man:
- Cinderella: Several men befriended inanimate objects that must be noted. Sproles & Whiteshoe – ammo can; Tarp, Utah & King David – TV; Chong, Villa, Fazio & Abacus – water jugs. Y’all are beasts and I wish I’d made it awake to whiteshoe’s house- but I passed out while I was getting changed after I cleaned up. Can’t wait to see y’all again at the next workout (once I can workout again) and beyond. Much respect-
- White Shoe: Abacus retired from F3. Also, he will never drive his wife’s car again. In all seriousness, signing up for the GORUCK after a couple of workouts may be one of the ballsiest moves I’ve seen in a long time. We were better for having you out there, brother. Let the record reflect–no one dropped the King. Is there anyone who can absorb more punishment, keep moving, and not b&*^&^ about it? I tried to think of something for MoneyHose. As I see it, he did nothing memorable. Backblast better be good. Cinderella and the TV became one in a moment of zen mediated by the Chonger. One hell of a team lead by Mighty Mite. We hauled arse to Jaycee Park. But, next time, let’s lose a skinny guy.
- Chewie: Despite numerous moments of Zen (Chung Li’s Copyright Pending) I doubted that I was in the physical shape to be able to do the whole, monstrous task before us. But, there is something about doing a challenge like this with 15 other guys that makes it do-able. Maybe it was the camaraderie; maybe it was that if you mess up everyone else will pay for your sins; and maybe it’s that if you are slacking someone else will have to carry more, for longer, and we’re all a bit more masochistic than sadistic. Whatever it was, We all made it through together.
- Chong Li: You all proved what you are capable of this weekend, now let’s see how much further we can go together. It was a real honor to do this with each of you and a weekend that I will not forget. GRT4Life, brah.
- Fazio: To each and everyone of you, thank you. I don’t say this flippantly or to be melodramatic – I’m a better person for having gone through this with you all. You guys are fun, encouraging, supportive and, above all, true friends and brothers. Special thanks to WS, Chong and Tecumseh for signing up to do this again with us and providing invaluable training to help get us prepared as best we could. True servant leadership.
- Fungo: When Cadre Ben told us that there wasn’t much he could punish us for because we were already a team, that, in my opinion, was the highest compliment we could have received. Those guys are trained to operate in and build teams that perform in the harshest conditions known to man, and to hear that from him was awesome.
- T Square: The team literally lifted me up off the ground each time we finished a bear crawl segment near the end. Again, at a time when it was all I could do to manage myself, there were others there able to manage themselves, water jugs, the ammo can, the team weight and still have strength reserves for others on the team. For me, it has added a new layer of humility and respect for the team.
- Wonk: My moment of clarity came early in the evening. We were treking through the crowd of “well-wishers” when I realized that, just three years ago, I made fun of this stuff as being ridiculous. I also weighed in at 300 pounds and was jealous of people that could climb a flight of stairs. Yet there I was, as happy as Chong li at a sweat lodge, ready to take the rest of the evening on.
- TARP: I’d also like to add that while doing push-ups in Crabtree Creek may not be the most hygienic exercise, if I had to do them I was glad it was with you men. From the people I’ve described our experience too, I’ve gotten the most reaction from that event.
- Utah: Capital Boulevard is like the Autobahn prior to church on Sundays, I think this is the real origin of the Bible belt There are underground tunnels to the Capitol building, and the locals are easily offended My ruck became a part of me; I actually left WS’s ruckoff because I was having PGRWS – Post Go-Ruck Withdrawal Syndrome I learned that I would never change 5/25/13 and the hours that I spent with you guys for anything, we are all Brothers in this life and the next.
- Bob Villa: All in all, gentlemen, I had the experience of a lifetime. I don’t know if I will do it again or not, but it changed me regardless. You all did an amazing job, and we as a team succeeded beyond any expectations I think that anyone had. As I sit here today I am proud to call you all my brothers.
- Big Sproles: From Cinderella talking me thru as I flailed with my ruck in the early hours to the confident encouragement from White Shoe, Fazio and Money Hose in the final stretch, it was incredible to be surrounded by a group that believed I could accomplish even when I didn’t think I could. It was a truly inspiring night simply watching the persistence, endurance and strength of this team, and it was a privilege to be a part of it. As a side bar confession, I do believe I uttered more profanity during those 12 hours than I have in my entire life, some with the most peculiar of combinations.
- King David: People keep asking me why the hell I would participate in such an event, what is the point? The real reason is because my brothers were doing it and so I did too. Its not so much that I felt I needed to be there to help the other 15 guys carry the load, but more so that if my brothers were going to be going through 13 hours of pain and beatdowns, then there is no way I wasn’t going to be right there next to them. This also isn’t the type of event I feel the need to go around telling outsiders about how tough I am that I completed the GRC. Maybe if you finish the spartan race or a triathlon and have a good time you want to brag to your co-workers. Not so with the GoRuck. The GoRuck is about being out there with your brothers, and working together to get through it. The only people I wanted to impress, and the only people that I give a crap if they know that I am now a GRT, are the other 15 guys.
- Abacus: Those first 2 1/2 hours were humbling, infuriating, and powerfully motivating. Referring to the fluttering hell of angles, I personally hated receiving an individual expectation that I could not fulfill, yet relenting was never an option. Grinding alongside all of you, working to complete seemingly impossible task after task without even questioning if each one was achievable through even our collective power is what the most memorable and effective teams are about. It completely took the pressure & question of success off the table. Consequently, the home stretch was getting pounded one way or another.
- Mighty Mite: I went into Saturday really only knowing Vila and Chewie but I left with 15 brothers. Thanks to all of you for making an outsider feel like a part of the family. Hopefully I’ll get to see all of you sometime soon. Football season is coming up and I’m sure I’ll make a few Saturday morning posts at Pullen in the fall. Go State!