“Keep your heads up!” The words from Cadre SeaBass pierced my skull as I stumbled forward desperately trying to identify the rocks lurking beneath the cloudy dark waters of Little Sugar Creek. My body was off balance from the weight of the ammo can clutched in my arms. I lifted my head, cradled the can and punched the man to my right on his shoulder, “good” I asked? “I’m good” he responded. Together, 24 men kept moving forward, step by step, towards advantage. “Keep your heads up!” I hear those words clearly as I type this 7 days later.
GrowRuck 24 was an epic event. It was my second GrowRuck. The first being GrowRuck 07, famously known for its weaponized eggs, burlap sacks and rented moving vans. Much will be written and remembered about GTE 24 for good reason, but it’s important to first recognize the importance and necessity of the Rally, the KingBuilder and GrowSchool. All three of these play a role leading up to the main event. The Rally brought us all together and gave us the opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones. The words spoken to the group set the tone for the weekend. “You won’t get through this on your own. Focus on the man to your left and to your right.” The KingBuilder highlighted the importance of good planning and using a command voice. GrowSchool ripped back the veil of the Sad Clown. Through vulnerability and raw transparency we learned about the importance of the G3L, VAPE and the 5C’s.
You can’t control what life throws at you. You can’t control how others will respond to unexpected circumstances. You can control how you prepare and how you respond to the circumstances you face.
“GTE will now begin at 1600.” It was a last minute curveball designed to test us. How would we respond to the unexpected? The PT test and welcome party were brutal, as the extra nerves, heat and sun drained us much faster than expected. Men dropped who simply weren’t supposed to. Stress and chaos began to emerge as the shrill sounds of an ambulance siren ripped through the humid air. But, we kept it together. The 4 platoons; Red, White, Blue and Green would soon set out into the dark of the unknown and begin an experience that none of us will ever forget.
I was a part of the Blue Platoon and was made its first Platoon Leader by Cadre SeaBass. Wild Turkey was made Assistant Platoon Leader. I was prepared for this. You never know if you will be assigned leadership responsibility and there are two approaches you can take. The first being to hope it doesn’t happen. The second being to come in prepared as if you expect it to happen. I recommend taking the second approach. Our 1st task was to gather our coupons which consisted of 3 sandbags (60lb, 80lb, 120lb), 3 20L water bags and a ridiculously heavy ammo can (because it was filled with lead ingots). We moved these coupons throughout the night. Our platoon came together pretty quickly and figured out the best ways to carry them, where they needed to be located and how to transition in fresh men. We completed our first evolution and then Wild Turkey and I received an AAR. 3 things that need work and 3 things we did well. Overall, we were too loud. We had to get better at communicating without yelling up and down the line. Our second evolution culminated with hydro burpees in the Freedom Park pond. I’ve heard so much about how nasty that water was. However, I never noticed it and thanked Cadre SeaBass for the opportunity to cool off. After getting out of the pond, Wild Turkey and I were relieved of command. Our AAR was overall very positive and I was happy to fall back in and ready to start moving some weight. It’s important for me to recognize Wild Turkey and the excellent job he did as APL. We executed the 1st two evolutions pretty well and this is because of the tremendous job he did communicating with the squad leaders and ensuring everyone was where they needed to be. Well done Brother!
Finally, the most challenging part of my time as PL came prior to our departure from AG Middle School. Cadre ordered me to move the platoon over to refill our water. In the middle of all of that, one of my Columbia brothers came over to inform me that he and two others from our region had been med dropped. I couldn’t believe it. These guys were well prepared and in great shape. My mind immediately shifted from attention to the platoon to worry for my brothers. I considered dropping out at that very moment. However, discipline kicked in and I flushed those thoughts. I knew they didn’t need me at that moment and they’d expect me to finish. I shifted my focus back 100% to my men and together we got the job done. I later shared with those three F3 Columbia brothers that they saved me later in the night. I saw them at the Muthaship, at the Dutch Baby pick-up, at the sunrise service and at EndEx. Every time I saw them, they gave me hope. I consider them heroes because of the noble qualities they demonstrated in the support roles they took on after the extreme disappointment of getting med dropped. They could’ve easily gone back to the hotel, but they didn’t and I’ll forever be grateful to them for that.
The rest of the night was incredibly challenging and immensely rewarding. All of the men tasked with leadership stepped up and dominated. Cadres SeaBass and Gobbler were excellent in teaching and motivating us, especially when they knew we were gassed. We had some real workhorses in Blue platoon and everyone embraced the mindset of helping each other instead of focusing on our own pain. We dispatched our desire for comfort and embraced the contentment we found by focusing on each other. Battle Buddies bonded and I had great ones in Wild Turkey and E-Tool. E-Tool was one of two Marines in our platoon. Never forget!
A lasting memory for me is an image I saw later of Ice9 as we climbed the steps to the EndEx football field carrying the Dutch Baby. Ice9 willed us up those steps, as he seemed to do all night long.
Moonshine’s sunrise service words come to me now. “Shared suffering leads to perseverance, which leads to character, which finishes with hope.”
I have an immense amount of hope.