BackBlast GoRuck Operation Red Wings Tough 7/20/18

Op Red Wings

The following backblast were written from our unique perspectives of the challenge.


just proud of you all clearly leading the way despite being newbies

If anything, I’d add how I hate being platoon leader/ squad leader….. but how GOOD it is for me to do that. I don’t like having people depend on me, count on me to make the right calls…… but that’s why GoRuck is so great. It pushes me out of my comfort zone. Challenges me to lead in ways I wouldn’t know how to otherwise.

As a husband and a Dad, I HAVE to lead this way. Humility in not having all the answers is powerful. But stepping up despite my shortcomings is critical.


7/20 (2100) – 7/21 (0730)

Four HIM joined a group of 15 to commemorate Operation Red Wings.  No matter the back blast, no single night of opt-in mental and physical endurance testing can contextually compare the hell that our American SOC forces endure to protect our freedom, such as our ability to opt in to an endurance event.


Nonetheless, I am proud of our F3 group (@Huggies, @Skid, and @Abacus) and how we represented.  The idea behind GoRuck is teamwork.  But, teamwork starts with trust that takes time to create.  Trust is not automatic over time, it’s earned and there is nothing like F3 to build trust between men.  We also led the way throughout the night.  We performed better together and carried more weight than any other group of four.


This night started with 15 of us huddled under an awning by the Big Four Bridge avoiding the severe storm.  We all new staying dry would be short lived, but why not stay dry as long as we could.  Aside from that, lighting was striking all around and it seemed the safest place to be.


Enter Cadre Stephen.  We marched right across an open field for an equipment inspection at 2100.  One teammate forgot their ID, which bought us 50 extra pushups later on in the evening.  We received the basic instructions, one of which was to partner up.  Of course F3 stuck together.  We headed out for what I will label 5 evolutions.  At each, we spent time talking about Operation Red Wings and 19 heroes that died for our freedom.


Evolution 1 – PT test.  Glad we just did an AFPFT on July 4th.  This one, of course, was with ruck (41 lbs).  The run was on paved ground but half of which was under water near the river.  F3 finished 1-4.  Hooyah!  We rucked to Slugger Field and picked up some gear.  Stephen taught us some basic recon along the way.

Evoltion 2 – The Weight.  Part of our gear was bags.  Our next mission was to fill 40 lb. sandbags.  Oh yeah, remember we’re in a major storm in downtown Louisville with no sand to be found.  After scouring, we could only find wet cement at the site of the new soccer field.  And so we found out that 40 lb. bags can hold more than 40 lbs.  The evolution ended with 50 pushups plus an additional 50 pushups for the forgotten ID.  The entire team opted into the addition.

Evolution 3 – We rucked for a while.  It became clear that F3 would bear the heavy weights throughout.  This meant that we mostly carried the 5-gallon water cans and/or sandbags.  Fireman’s Carry races ensued at approximately 0130.  My best estimate is that were moving 425 lb. – 500 lb. around for a while, that’s including my own weight plus another plus rucks.

Evolution 4 – The Bridge.  The ruck back to the start area was probably the most difficult, likely between the hours of 0200 – 0400.  The weight was taking its’ toll on my back and arms.  Being exhausted, wet, and scratched up, and knowing that we still had the 2nd half of the night was a real test of mental and physical endurance.  At this point, there is no comfortable method for carrying the odd sized weights.  The sand bags did not mold and conform around the neck like dry sand.  Bulges of rock and cement weighed unevenly across my shoulders.  I had to switch Jerry cans of water constantly from side to side or bear hugging.  No method worked well.  We arrived back at the bridge but all knew it was way too early for this night to be over.  We marched across the bridge and back.

Evolution 5 – PT Test.  Yes, we did another, and yes, F3 excelled again.  I’m not sure how @Skid and @Huggies fared in comparison to the first test, but I do know that @Abacus and I actually did better the 2nd time around as there was little reason to conserve energy.  @Abacus killed it 69 pushups and 75 sit-ups!


We rucked back to Stephen’s car and put up the gear.  Rucked back to start at approximately 7:30 to receive our patches and have a beer ala Emily.  What did I learn?  Just two things: 1) I can do a GoRuck tough, and 2) F3 makes us better together!


PAX 4  Little Jerry (R), Skid, Abacus, Huggies

Gear:  YHC wearing 30 lbs black camo Rucker 2.0.  Nike tennis shoes (do not recommend), Dry wick shirt (do recommend) and basketball shorts.  Inside the ruck, were glow sticks, 3 liter water bladder, Photo ID, $40 cash, laminated bio of Petty Officer Second Class Danny Dietz.  I also wore a hat with a green head light.

Weather – Pouring rain with some lightening for the first 2 hours followed by fair weather and a beautiful morning sunrise.

We arrived in a clown car at about 8:30 PM at the silver lot on river road, downtown Louisville…pouring rain.  We gathered our rucks and started to meet our teammates, who were filtering in, while taking shelter under some coverings at the park.  I met a man named Jim, in his late 60’s, who was doing his first ruck like I was.  He was formerly in the Navy.  I also met Emily who was a prosecuting attorney from Alabama who had completed several ruck events.  I met Mark who had also completed several ruck events and organized our team charity which was a donation to the Healing Place.  Another guy named John showed up with our team weight.  It was a huge log with ropes tied to either end for two person carry.  It weighed about 30 lbs.

Cadre Stephen finally showed up and asked us to gather our things and walk with him to a grass area nearby.  He was former Army Special forces.  It sounded like he had done tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He lives in the Northern Kentucky Area.

He first did an equipment check.  We opened our bags and he was interested in knowing if we had ID, and weight.  Two guys left their ID in the car and had to run back and get it.  (Punishment for this came later).  He briefly went over the event.  Basically 15-20 miles 10-12 hours just like we already knew.  We then followed him over to another area of the park.  At this point he posed the question as to where do we find special forces (SF) men and women?  The answer was that they volunteered, and the next answer was the screening process which is the Army Physical Fitness test (APFT).  That ‘s what we did next.  It was pouring the rain at this point, keep in mind.

Push Ups for 2 minutes with our rucks

Sit ups for 2 minutes with our rucks

Run two miles around the park with our rucks.

Take note, the top four finishers of the two-mile were the four F3 guys.

Cadre Stephen stated that soldiers take this test give it their all.  They don’t want to have to explain to their commanding officer that they failed the test after being flown all the way from Hawaii or some such…

We next divided into two teams with a squad leader and two team leaders.  We then lined up and rucked to the Muhammed Ali center.  This was probably about a mile.  We stopped there and talked briefly about Muhammed Ali.  We then talked about Operation Red Wings.  Cadre explained how poor planning was a problem with the mission.  Not to cheapen what had happened but to explain how special forces always critique and catalog mission failures for future learning and understanding.  YHC then was asked to read my bio of Danny Dietz.  He was one of the four SEALS, inserted into the area to take out Ahmed Shah, a Taliban leader, and was subsequently killed in the initial fighting.

Our next check point was Louisville Slugger field which took a bit longer than expected as we rucked in front of the Yum center when a large event was ending with masses of people walking out of the building.   We managed to weave our way through, but it cost us valuable time.  We were 30 seconds late to the check point.

We next learned the art reconnaissance from cadre.  A blue car parked on the side of the road was the target.  We learned how to set up security while other team members moved toward the target.  Once arriving at the target, we learned that it was Cadre’s car, a blue VW, and it contained the remainder of our weight…two large water cannisters 5 gallons each…two cylinders weighing approx 25 lbs each with sand…one 60 lbs sand bag….5-6 empty sand bags.

We were instructed, next, to find some sand to fill the empty sand bags.  We walked about a half mile up the road and found a gravel/concrete pile that would work.  Sand bags now full.  Now it was time to pay for our prior transgressions.  50 push ups for being late to the first checkpoint.  50 push ups for each guy who forgot his ID at the beginning.   Ruck sacks were on.  We also took a pee break at this point.

We next headed out for the longest leg of our night.   It was about 3 miles to Baxter Avenue area.  We stopped near a school playground to read a few of the operation red wings bios.  This leg took the longest because we now had the full weight of the team.  At this point my shoulders were killing me.  YHC felt the urge to lean forward placing my hands on my knees, anything to take the weight off of my shoulders.

We next headed out for one of the shorter legs of the night.  We walked towards broadway about a mile and stopped at a small playground.  We spent the longest time here.  We took another pee break and cadre laid out some cones.  He demonstrated proper carrying technique.  We practiced this with our rucks on, which wasn’t easy.  YHC dropped a couple guys in full disclosure.  We next practiced the three-man carry.

We used our new skills in a race where the group divided into the two teams.  Half of each team were casualties and the other half had to carry the casualties to the cones about 30 yards away.  We did this a couple of times.  We next raced to see who could move all the gear to the cones the fastest.  The team that lost did flutter kicks for two minutes.  The team that won volunteered to do them too.

We talked a bit more about operation red wings and read some more bios.  We then were off to the next point which was down broadway to clay street then all the way back to waterfront park.  This was a long leg as well.  We had to make frequent stops, so team members could catch up.  It was difficult to stay together but important as it was very late at this point and could be dangerous for team members separated from the group.

At this point we took a brief stop, and then headed across the walking bridge to southern Indiana.  Once on the other side we headed down the hill toward the river.  There was some graded grassy steps and some porta johns.  We stopped here for a while and read the remainder of the operation red wings bios, all except for Murphy which we saved for the end.   We finished discussing the Operation Red Wings story.  This was a longer and much needed stop.  I found myself constantly kneeling and leaning over to take the pressure off my shoulders.  The thought of picking up that sandbag again was almost unbearable.

Nonetheless we carried on, back across the bridge.  We made it back to water front park on the Kentucky side.  This is where we read Murph’s bio.  Those who were kneeling were asked to stand while cadre read his Medal of Honor citation.  It was a powerful moment.  At this point I could just see a halo toward the eastern sky.  I knew it was almost dawn.

We rucked back over to the part of the park where we did the APFT test.  Cadre made us do it again.  YHC did more sit ups this time than the first.  The weather conditions were a bit better.   Cadre stated that if we all ran the whole way we would only have to do four laps around the track this time instead of the six as before.   Needless to say, our entire team made sure we all ran the whole way.

We again packed up our gear and rucked back toward slugger field.  It was fully daylight by this point.  Cadre had us take a team pic.  We next loaded the gear back into his car.  We then carried ourselves and the team weight back to the Silver lot where it all began.  Arrival time about 0700 for 10 hours total and just shy of 15 miles.  We received our patches with a hand shake from Cadre.  YHC changed into some flip flops and noted the condition of my feet were not so good.  I enjoyed a cold can of beer.


PAX – Abacus, Huggies, Little Jerry, Skid

Last February signing up for GoRuck Operation Redwing Tough seemed like a great idea to test my limits. As today’s date on the calendar drew nearer, the opposite seemed true. The same old pre-event/race demons began to surface. For instance, my training really sucked, my feet aren’t close to ready for this, I’m going to be super exhausted and pass out while walking, etc. I kept pushing forward hoping the day would just come and go and not be a big deal and I’d magically be ready…


Training – my training consisted of posting at F3 workouts, running, F3 rucks, a few solo rucks with appx 40 pounds, rucking around the office all day, and Navy Seal Fit in 8 Weeks by Mark Devine. The F3 workouts, F3 rucks, and Navy Seal Fit in 8 Weeks helped the most.

  • F3 because these were general full body beat downs.
  • F3 rucks because ZARTAN’s first ruck was a serious beat down. We did the hardest thing ever; coupons up Seminary Hill (2x’s)! I began working on leg strength after this ruck. Passion ruck mix of beat down, miles covered, absolute CRAP weather (driving rain and wind while temperature dropped from low 50’s to mid to low 40’s). Also, I learned how to get ditched by my partner; thanks Devito (#neverforget)! B R U T A L! I missed April and May, but made it to June’s capture the flag…tons of miles and fun!
  • Navy Seal Fit because these workouts focused on a mix of cardio and strength training (thrusters, bar squats, overhead presses, full body merkins, pull-ups, burpees, etc.).


Ruck week – mix of emotions. This is going to suck. This is going to be fun. Weather…it’s July how could it be bad? It might be hot, but that beats cold. CRAAPPP we’re going to get wet early in the beat down; probably in the fountains at Waterfront Park. Early in the week, the weather looked bad. Despite my hourly checks, the forecast only marginally improved. The improvement came on the front side of the GLOOM of 21JUL18 in the form of decreasing rain chances.


Ruck day – took a vacation day to “rest” for the evening ahead. While packing my gear, according to the strict GoRuck guidelines, I broke a piece of headlamp. OOOOHHHH CRAP! Hustle up to Wally World for a replacement and glow sticks. Grab a quick nap. Laying around watching afternoon local news hoping the weather would get better. BTW checking every 5 minutes doesn’t help. Decided local news really sucks. Searched YouTube for GoRuck videos to get extra pumped up. Watched a few videos and then watched a video on Navy Seal Training BUDS Pool training. These guys are such bad asses! Unbelievable.


Hours leading up to event – coordinate with Skid, Little Jerry, and Huggies carpooling to Starting Point. We rendezvous at Abacus’ house and packed the clown car to head to GoRuck Operation Redwing Tough – Louisville (Silver Parking Lot of Waterfront Park). Moments before the HIMs arrived, the sky opened and God began dumping buckets of water on eastern Jefferson County. The optimist in me thought “it’s not raining downtown”. No time to sit and watch the rain fall, GoRuck waits for no man and if you’re on time, you’re late so away we go. Driving rain fell the entire way to Waterfront Park. Skid kept checking the radar while LJ and Huggies crossed their fingers, legs, arms, eyes and ears the rain would stop. It didn’t help!


Arrived at Starting Point. Rain let up. Miracle? Let’s chill in the car for a bit instead of sitting under the portico for 30 minutes. Rain kicked back up. No miracle. RATS! Nervous mumble chatter filled the car. With 15 minutes to go we left the safety of the clown car to meet our teammates.


Quick introductions, last minute gear checks, bio-breaks, etc. Now we wait for Cadre. Most of the team milled around nervously while YHC (ABACUS) sat criss cross applesauce focusing on breathing in and out (thank you Navy Seal Fit in 8 Weeks).  I did not have a watch on, but it had to be later than 2100 hrs. Hmmm. Where is Cadre? After 10 minutes of hanging around, Cadre entered stage left and hustled us to formation (kindof) and we were off.


Quick huddle up for roll-call and GoRuck rules (no rain yet; fingers crossed). Some dude appeared out of thin air and he claimed to be a shadow. Like a shadow he disappeared as soon as the rain picked up. Team lined up on sidewalk for Cadre’s gear check. Two members failed to pay attention to the packing list and forgot ID and/or cash. Cadre was super cool about it, which should’ve been an indication punishment was coming later. All others passed and we were off across Waterfront Park. Rain picked up right after gear check. Picked up means monsoon.  It was a short walk. YHC was shivering and thinking this is going to be a long night. Stopped to talk about where the men and women of Special Forces come from and how they are selected. Great lead into to our “welcome party”, which was PT test:


  • Two minute max push-ups with ruck (perfect form) – Goal 52 (Actual 42)
  • Two minute max sit-ups (ruck on front) – Goal not disclosed (Actual 55)
  • Two mile run – we went 6 laps around a 0.25 mile course so 1.5 miles covered with ruck


PT test warmed me up in a hurry.


Quick debrief at PT test…Lesson learned the men and women going through PT test get one chance. This is the weed out. They give everything. They don’t want to be the one sent home on the first day.


Team partnered up. Skid (go F3) was chosen as Squad Leader. Two captains were selected. Team fell into formation and we were off. YHC was honored to carry the flag and help Skid navigate to next point. Team navigated to Muhammad Ali center. We began reading the bio’s of the SF men KIA on 28JUN05. Then began discussing the vignette “Lone Survivor”. Cadre shared his SF experience about mission planning and how some of the traditional insertion tactics may have contributed to the compromise of the mission.


Cadre having enough of the standing around, gave Skid the next destination point (corner of Whiterspoon and River Road / gate of slugger field). Fortunately, next point was a straight shot down Main Street. Team was challenged with sidewalk of people leaving concert at YUM! Center (Shania Twain…she’s still around?). Moving in formation with a giant log (team weight) was slowed up…we were under a time X. Lots of drunk country music loving women in boots gawking at our wood. One even exclaimed “Holy Shit look at that!”. We had that going for us.


On the corner of Main and something Cadre called 2 minutes to check point. Time to double time. Skid kept the team moving and together. Cross the street to check point. Cadre delivered the news…we missed by 30 seconds.


Crossed the street for teaching moments on surveillance vs reconnaissance. Surveillance observing a moving target / enemy from a static position. Reconnaissance observe a stationary target from multiple positions. We demonstrated the techniques of reconnaissance with security detail and clover leaf technique. My finance team may start using this to drive other teams into action; I digress. Team reconned a suspect looking blue VW as our mock resupply point. Turned out to be a live car! Oh crap! This must be a set up. Lots of coupons inside (heavy pipes, sandbags, water, missing man ruck). Cool sandbags are empty. Then Cadre informs us the Team will fill the bags.


Next mission locate sand for sandbags using recon method just taught. Several recons yield negative results.


Located “sand” (e.g., concrete) of an undisclosed location on Adams Street. Team set about filling bags. Cadre checked the 40lbs bags already packed nicely in the carrying bag. YUP. TOO DAMN LITE. Added several more scoops of concrete. Bags filled and ready.


Cadre calls out punishment for missing time cut-off – 50 merkins and individual punishments for failure to be detailed in packing 50 merkins. YHC selfishly thought cool 50 merkins no big deal. Team leader killed that joy we he announced Team would do 100 merkins. Merkins were on gravel of the undisclosed location. One female team member must have been a cheerleader b/c she kept positive encouragement going after each set of 10. Knocked out the 100 merkins and grabbed some coupons.


LJ and I set off with one 80lbs bag. With concrete I bet it weighed 90+. Heavy and awkward. Directions were simple: hold course on Adams, right on Spring, right on Payne street go to end. Stopped at Breckinridge Elementary for more bio readings and vignette debrief.


Cadre permitted team to break out the 80 lbs bags to smaller bags and weight was distributed more evenly. Set off down Payne Street for next destination: Rubel Park. Rubel park is a small triangle park in the Phoenix Hill neighborhood. Very dark and surrounded by houses. Team instructed to keep voices low. Time for some fun PT.


Teams split up and buddy carried for about 25 yards. Then buddy carry races. A few of us took spills during the buddy carry, which is all part of the fun. On a buddy carry I landed on my ruck causing the hydration bladder to come unsealed and I started getting drenched. A quick fix and it was all good. The sprints with coupons. Three of Louisville’s bravest rolled down the street and we kept a low profile. They did not stop so we kept on. Covered more bio’s. Team observed a person standing on his/her back deck swing a torch of some kind. Kind of felt like Hawaii. UPS planes still coming in so it was still relatively early. The lightning was beginning to die off.


Grabbed coupons and headed down Broadway for next point. Back at waterfront. Covered some additional bio’s and maybe some PT; can’t remember. Cadre que’d up a video of General John Kelly describing what happens when a hero from our military is killed in action ( IMO that has to be the worst job in the service…sharing the tragic news that someone’s son or daughter will not be coming home again and breaking the hearts of the families. It’s rather petty to think about my feet (the untapped toes) getting hot spots. But, thinking about those families, those special military personnel charged with that horrible responsibility put my sore feet into perspective. We grabbed the coupons and headed for Big4 bridge. Awesome, we see the cars, but keep going right after Cadre tells us “this is the hardest part of the night”. Cool mental warrior trick Cadre! Give Team the option to quit then walk past the cars! Nicely played!


LJ and I were partners all night which was great because our physical abilities are similar. We alternated the H20 containers across the bridge. The H2O containers suck to carry. While crossing the bridge I began to sing to myself to keep my mind distracted as we walked. It made the time go by faster.


On the Sunny Side of the River, Cadre was eyeing the river very carefully. I was ready for us to get wet and muddy with an early morning swim. To my surprise we rucked on. Reaching our destination, we covered all bio’s except Murph’s. Back across the bridge.


Back to the lawn of Waterfront Park where we read Lt. Michael Murphy’s bio and Cadre read his Medal of Honor accommodation. Quick mosey over to place the flag and we got a second chance at the PT test. I completed 60 merkins and 75 sit-ups. Better this go around.


Cadre marched us back towards Slugger Field. Team could see Cadre’s car and many were thinking we were headed there. I kept telling myself we were headed back to Muhammad Ali center or some other place a couple miles away or we’d retrace our steps from the night before just to cover miles. There was no way I was allowing myself to hope we’d stow the gear and we’d be finished. Mainly because all week I’ve been trying to prep myself for mental hurdles mainly staying in the moment. Doing my best to not think about what may be next or what already happened. Just stay present.


We turned left, took a team picture, and returned to Cadre’s car to stow gear. Again, I wasn’t convinced we were finished. We were and we headed back to the Silver Lot for a cold beer (Rucksack beer) YUM!!


What went well? Staying present in the moment. Focus on the breath particularly after PT or tough exercise. Smiling. Being polite to people we passed on the street. Accepting that I the more control I gave up the more control I had, at least over my mind. Singing songs to myself. Cheering on teammates (if you want to feel better say something nice to someone else).


What would I change? Not carrying Nalgene bottle filled with water. Unnecessary extra weight. Bring an Apple. Wear the toe socks to prevent skin on skin contact of my toes. Take more assertive leadership role. Crazy that after 10 hours we still sucked at marching in good and tight formation. Not carrying flip flops (stupid unneeded weight; just leave in the car). Maintaining focus…I spent most of the bio’s hoping Cadre would not call on me or anyone else about who we were reading…I could see lips moving, but could not hear a word.


This event could have just ended with everyone getting in their cars and going separate ways, but Emily brought beer. YAY!!! I will always make sure I bring beer and water for a good team send off.


Thank you to Kilo for really getting behind rucking and making it something for F3 Louisville!


Thank you Skid, Little Jerry, and Huggies for getting me through the ruck. Could not have done it without you.

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