July 18, 2012
By Sgt. Peter J. Berardi
KUWAIT NAVAL BASE, Kuwait — Standing on the sands of a beach at 5 a.m., looking out over the Persian Gulf, watching as the sun rises and pokes through the haze of dust, you can almost forget you are on a military installation. But for more than 80 service members this would be no relaxing walk on the beach.
The Soldiers of the 569th Engineer Detachment (Dive) organized the Diver 250 Challenge at Kuwait Naval Base, July 14. The competition pitted six- or seven-member teams from multiple services in a race to complete several events including a 250-meter zodiac row, two 250-meter track pulls, 250 pull-ups and burpees, a 2.5-mile run and a mystery event. The mystery event had the teams jump into a pool that was more than 12 feet deep while trying to recover the team brick from the bottom so it could be carried to the finish line.
“The event took about a month to plan, but the most difficult part was determining the events,” said 569th 1st Sgt. Earnest Vance, a resident of Fort Eustis, Va. “We wanted the overall event to be challenging but doable for all the participants.”
“This was like a sprint compared to what we did at Fort Eustis, Virginia,” said Staff Sgt. Josh Palmer, a member of the 569th. The course here was only 2.5 miles while at Eustis the commanders diving challenge is nearly a 15-mile course with events throughout.
Capt. Brett Evans, a resident of Fort Eustis, Va., and the commanding officer of the 569th Engineer Detachment (Dive), echoed the first sergeant adding, “We wanted it to be fun for everyone. They could come out and enjoy it but at the end of the event they could walk away and say they pushed themselves and feel proud for completing it.”
Demonstrating teamwork, cohesion and having some fun was the purpose of the event.
“I thought it was a good event,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Aaron Burgin, a member of the Port Security Unit 309, from Toledo, Ohio. “It was very challenging, good team building and we had a good time. We all motivated each other.”
With many different parts to the event the teams had several responses for what event was liked most.
“The zodiac paddling was fun,” said Burgin. “We pulled out front and were the first team to come in.”
A Navy team was part of the first heat and observed few teams having problems with steering the zodiacs causing a pile-up in the water. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandro Escontrias, a member of the Navy Customs unit at KNB, said, “Our strategy in the row was to let everyone get out in front of us so we wouldn’t get messed up and bump into everybody,” Escontrias, a resident of Greenville, S.C., added. “We let everybody else do the bumper boat thing and kinda stayed behind letting them expend their energy.”
“We really had a lot of fun,” said Escontrias, “It was an experience that we didn’t think we would have here, getting to row out into the ocean.”
“I liked the rowing,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Ruckh, from Buffalo, N.Y. “We aren’t allowed to go in the water, that was the first time we actually got to go anywhere near the water so it was nice,” added Ruckh, a military police officer with the 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
Evans enjoyed the mystery event.
“The pool was pretty fun,” he said, “I like being in the water, but did find myself unlucky, I pretty much did the whole circle of the pool before I found my brick.”
Another team found the pool to be a problem though and only completed the event after checking every brick.
“Our one Achilles heel was that we can’t swim,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Garcia from the 59th Chemical Company based in Fort Drum, N.Y.
The 59th had two teams participating. Although they had trouble with the pool event, they remained in good spirits.
“We love a challenge, we love physical training and we had fun,” added Garcia.
After the final team crossed the finish line everyone gathered in a large clamshell tent to get some much needed water, breakfast, shade and possibly more importantly a seat.
“We got multiple services together today and I noticed throughout the event a high amount of spirit de corps,” said Evans. “People seemed like they really enjoyed themselves and that’s what’s important.”