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Battle of Ramadi Tough/Light

I wrote a 4000 word piece on this whole event. It was long and it covered only the Tough. Way too long. Because I have seen so many great write ups about this event already I want to pull a little from it. Instead of giving you a play by play of the entire event. I did that, it was boring, and if you really want to know what it was like; go sign up for an event. I’ll let you know what’s on my radar for the rest of the year at the end.

Preparation: Since my last Tough in February, I felt like I needed to train more if I wanted to thrive in events like this. I only survived my first Tough event. I struggled more than I didn’t. I made it a point to train harder. I didn’t want to feel like a liability. I wanted to contribute. I had no idea where to start before. Now with the benefit of a super supportive ruck club leader in Bryan Singelyn, I did a round of Heavy Drop Training (HDT). At the same time I finished up the Pathfinder Class I was in (Endure Class 19 Group 52) and then signed up for another, Endure Class 20 Group 52.

HDT was awesome. I initially dropped weight, but then slowly put it back on. I ate more because I always seemed like I was starving, and I was putting more workload on my body. I gained muscle. I could tell. I had definition in my legs where I didn’t have it before. I had definition in my arms where I didn’t have before. My core, well, it’s still a work in progress, it is still a tub of goo.

Pathfinder helped me get the miles in my ruck which paid off immensely. It allowed me to play with different sock combinations to see what worked and didn’t work on longer movements. Kristi my CA has been an awesome support as well. She’s connected me with other T1Ds in sports, not just rucking and it has been nice to find others doing similar things as I am and having the same struggles I am.

By the way, in the end I didn’t settle on sock choice until the day before I left to travel for the event. I literally took the tags off the Smartwool socks I got the day I put them on for the first time. Luckily I didn’t regret that.

Gear: During my workup for the event a friend of mine from high school saw me posting a ton. Her husband is a pilot for UH-60 Helicopters for the US Navy stationed in Jacksonville, FL so he knew GORUCK and what it was all about. They are getting ready to move and well, her husband reached out. He said he had been following my progress through his wife and was impressed. He had a spare Rucker 1.0 just laying around his house and asked if I would like it.

I was blown away by his generosity. I still am. Proves that you never know who is watching.

Gear List:

Rucker 1.0 25L

Camelbak 3L Hydration Bladder

Nalgene 1L

3 dry bags

30lb Custom Made Ruck Plate

Wrangler Outdoor Pants

C9 Shirt from Target

REI Merino Wool Boxer Briefs

Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp

Craftsman Mechanic’s Gloves

Smartwool Socks


One Touch Blood Sugar Meter with test srips and lancets

Waterproof/crush resistant case

Humalog Insulin Pen in Frio Cooling Wallet

Nuun ORS tablets

Low carb food options (total of 300 calories)

High carb food option (70 calories)

Event Summary:

Battle of Ramadi GORUCK Tough/Light

June 14, 2019 - June 15, 2019

Pittsburgh, PA

Cadre MK

“Being a Ranger is never being satisfied with excellence; never being content by being the best. Being a Ranger is always striving to be a little bit better today than you were yesterday, but not near as good as you will be tomorrow. Being a Ranger is simply knowing, without question, that even perfection can be improved upon. Then committing to constantly advance on that objective.” - CSM M. Leon-Guerro, CSM 75th Ranger Regiment, Nov 1988

This passage was read at the start point of the Battle of Ramadi GORUCK Tough and also the Light. This passage sets the tone for the entire event. Cadre Mike Kurth talked about how hard it is to read and live by this everyday; you could substitute ‘ranger’ for almost anything you want to be better at. It is hard. But right when you start to feel complacency creep in, read it again and live by it. Get your mind right.

To start the event in the middle of a huge art festival was awesome. People all around getting ready to party and we were getting ready to work ourselves pretty good. My battle buddy Chris was at this event with me once again. Our first movement was to Schenley Park. It was about a 4 mile movement. Once we got there I checked my blood sugar. 146, perfect. We were about 3 hours post dinner so I knew I was on the backside of the insulin curve. I wanted to be about 130 by the time my bolus was out of my system. 146 was perfect.

We did penalty PT there for missing crossing, but our team was slowly coming together. Cadre MK has each of us go to the middle of the circle and introduce ourselves and pick an exercise. We did that until we got through all 23 participants. 23 rounds of 20 rep exercises. If they could be 4-counts, we did the 20 4 count exercise. I almost lost my dinner here. I got so overheated, but during a short break I grabbed a huge gulp of my Gatorade zero in my ruck. I almost felt instantly better. From there Cadre MK started to draw direct lines of correlation from the Battle of Ramadi into the movements we had been doing. He assigned a TL and ATL. One was a seasoned GORUCK Participant, the other was brand new. We as a team needed to teach the new guys on the team what to do. Just like they had to in the Battle of Ramadi. There were several

From there we moved into Greenfield. We had 4 sandbags in varying forms of heavy. Our team got really good as mastering the switch outs on the fly, moving across intersections more efficiently and safer calling last man. From Greenfield we moved across the Hot Metal Bridge to the Southside trail, this time with a time hack. We met the time hack, even with a bio-break in there. We got to our movement endpoint where we had more PT. They were max effort reps for 30 seconds each. We did 3 or 6 rounds. I can’t remember. All I can remember was how uncomfortable the ground was. This patch of “grass” was formerly a section of overgrown weeds. It sucked.

From there we rucked down the Southside Trail until the West End Bridge. Once across the bridge we continued to GORUCK Beach just behind the Carnegie Science Center. We did log PT with freshly picked logs. From there we rucked around the North Shore area with all our coupons, water jugs, and logs.

We stopped at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Monument where the Cadre put all the lessons of the Battle of Ramadi in perspective. He read the citation for Michael Monsoor’s Silver Star and Medal of Honor. It was haunting to hear what Michael Monsoor did for his buddies and team mates. He selflessly, without regard to his safety, traded his life for the lives of his team mates by throwing himself onto a grenade that bounced off his chest, taking the entire blast.

Sobering to realize that because of the sacrifices of our military, I would never have to be in that position to see if I would do the same. I can’t thank our military enough.

From there we rucked back across the river to the start point for ENDEX.

The handshake and patch were a welcome relief, but I didn’t let my mind wander; Chris and I still had another event to get done.

Class pictures, handshakes, hugs, farewells to the Tough participants not coming back for the Light and Chris and I were headed back across the bridge to our hotel. The part about the walk back was the extra 30lbs Chris and I were carrying. He and I lent extra weight to a couple guys on the team that needed some, but the downside was, we had to carry that back to our hotel. It was a long mile.

Once back at the hotel we gathered our wives and kids and headed to the hotel breakfast spot. My goal was simple. Eat as many calories as possible. The plan for our families were to go to the Children’s Museum for the day while Chris and I showered and rested before the Light.

Before breakfast I did a blood sugar check. 96. It was the lowest I had all night. Right where I wanted to be. After breakfast we kissed the wife and kids farewell to the museum and I jumped in the shower. Once I got to the bed I set an alarm for 12:30pm. I had 2 hours and 7 minutes. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

The alarm was loud and I would be lying if I said I didn’t hit snooze. Once up, I got dressed quickly. Pre-staging clothes and pre-packing your ruck is essential. By 1:15 we were out the door. By 1:45 we were at the start point. By 2:00 our admin phase for the Light had begun.

Our first movement for the Light was across the bridge Chris and I just walked from the hotel, back to the North Shore Vietnam Monument. We stopped briefly, only to pick up the logs we stashed from the Tough, just a few hours before. We had 23 people for the Tough, but only 16 for the Light. We were carrying ALL the same weight. It was at this point we realized that our Light turned into just a short Tough.

We moved onto a flat area outside Heinz Stadium. We did the same PT party as the Tough, but with just 16 people we flew through it. Our next movement was to the West End Bridge. By this time the Tough participants were telling the new Light participants what the deal was. We were calling last man, switching out on the sandbags and team weight like clock work. We made our way across the West End Bridge and into the West End of Pittsburgh.

What I know about this area is exactly nothing other than the sidewalks are tight, the hills are steep, and a hole in a section of sidewalk almost Randy. We stopped briefly to top off our water bladder. Most of us came with just half our water bladder filled and an empty Nalgene. It was just a Light.

At this point we all topped off. I also topped off my Nalgene. I knew I probably wouldn’t need it, but just in case someone else did, I would have it. From there I grabbed a sandbag and was in the front of the stack. We made our way to a street that took us to the West End park, up this long, but not particularly steep hill. As we made our way up we would switch off the sandbags only to get on a log, then take a brief break and bag onto a sandbag.

Just as we got around a long right sweeping corner we thought was the top we noticed another long climb ahead of us. No one complained, we just kept moving. I had called for a switch off on the sandbag just as we reached the crossing, but I saw the sign for the park so I said, no I can get it across the street. They had my relief relieve someone else. As we crossed the street we made a right hand turn up an ever steeper hill. I made it halfway up before I asked the TL for a switch off. My back and shoulders were screaming. The sandbag came off, I felt the blood rush back into the shoulders and I made my way back to the back of the line. A few minutes off a weight then I would jump on a log. It was just as me made the top of the hill Cadre stopped us.

We had done that entire movement up, and now we saw hills going down. No one complained and we worked well as a team. He gave us a morale boost and let us hurl the logs into the woods. From that point he gave us our directions and moved us out. We were headed back to the Southside Trail. From there we made it across another bridge that dumped us directly back into Point State Park for ENDEX. Our last movements were crisp, clean, together, and quick. Cadre gave the TL and ATL kudos for the efficiency and we were rewarded with patches and beer, but not until he read Michael Monsoor’s Medal of Honor Citation again.

Battle of Ramadi Theme: I knew this battle pretty well. I’ve read Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and listened to his postcast a lot. Those resources give you a big overview of the leadership picture on the battle. Cadre MK gave a much different picture. He gave us a look at the complex forces at work. You had regular Marines and Army also with Special Forces elements in Navy Seal Task Units and Ranger Units, then you had the Iraqi Army. Every unit had a much different training cycle and depth of experience.

The special forces needed to learn how to work and train with people who didn’t have the same resources or training on top of the folks who had never been deployed before. There were green officers that have never lead a platoon before paired up with very experienced NCOs. They all had to learn on the fly and learn to work together to accomplish the mission.

Cadre took that theme and made it hit hard. We had people who had done a TON of events. There were also a good contingent of first timers as well. So our TL and ATLs would be a mix of first time people and experienced people. They all had to learn on the fly. That was a neat lesson and it was awesome to see how everyone came together quickly. Those who had done events before would take the sandbags, those who hadn’t would just do what the experienced guys did and took the weight.

We only had one session of penalty PT at the beginning of the Tough and Cadre let the work do the work. At every stop he made a straight line from the lessons of the Battle of Ramadi to what we were doing. That direct correlation helped me understand the mental state they could have been in. It helped this civilian relate in a very slight way. GORUCK hopefully built me into a better American. I won’t really know until I can apply the lessons to my everyday life.

Conclusion: This event tested a few aspects I didn’t train for. Without a group of people you can never replicate the misery of a pain train, or the sled of death. So when you’re at an event under one of those, you just hang on and hope. I think the training I had done to this point definitely thrust me in the right direction, but there is still work to do.

During this event I did not feel like I was holding the team back at all. I didn’t feel doubt. I carried weight when someone else couldn’t any more and then someone carried weight when I couldn’t. I felt really good about my performance.

The round of HDT definitely made me stronger, but didn’t beat me down to the point I didn’t want to train the next day. The amount of work I had done leading into the event paid off big time. My recovery between events was quick, my feet were sore after the short rest but the rest of my body was good to go. I felt a tinge of a lower back tweak; but stretching and Aleve help dampen that down. Today, 3 days post event, I feel fresh as a daisy ready to start training for the next event. I wasn’t sore which is a testament to the intensity of HDT. My body was more used to the workload I was telling to do.

I think my nutrition plan and blood sugar strategy worked really really well. I never dipped low, and I never spiked high. What I think attributed to that was a combination of the Pathfinder rucking challenges and spending time on longer rucks and HDT.

I finished both events, was able to play with the kids in the pool for an hour and keep up with them. I rested and kept moving the day after the events. I definitely hit a wall on the Sunday following the event, which was to be expected.

Next Steps: It's time to look for the future. I am in the current round of HDT and Pathfinder to train up for the next event which I am planning for October 25, 2019. The will the the only Battle of Fallujah events. I will be doing the Heavy. It is the only logical next step.

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