by Tenley Halaquist
Recently, I was given the opportunity to attend a unique professional development event. Usually educational trainers attend conferences, webinars, or read articles for professional development, but this time I was expected to learn through a more physical means. The event is called GoRuck Tough. Rucking is a verb meaning “to put weight on your back and go for a walk.” During the GoRuck Tough, you are expected to carry at least 30 lbs. (if you weigh over 150—yes that is me) and hike for 15 to 20 miles over a 10- to 12-hour time span. The event I attended started June 24 at 9 p.m. and went until June 25, 9 a.m. There were 15 of us in the class.
Participants are “welcomed” with a series of exercises, including pushups, butterfly kicks, and burpees.
The event—designed to improve communication skills—started out with a “welcome party” which was pretty much military-style boot camp. We learned different casualty carries, crawls, and did plenty of push-ups, butterfly kicks, and burpees. Our first mission after the welcome party was to carry casualties using the fireman’s carry technique from one destination to the next in a certain time. Unfortunately, as a team we did not complete the mission, therefore we had a punishment exercise. Punishment exercises were expected after all unsuccessful missions.
A burpee demonstration. Burpees are a combination of a squat that kicks into a pushup and ends with the participant standing.
The next mission was to complete 75 pull-ups as a team in an allotted time limit. We completed this task ahead of schedule.
After a nice brisk walk with my crew, we were asked by our cadre (GoRuck leader who is/was a leader in the armed forces and who communicates our missions) to stand aside while he looks for our “friend.” Upon his return, we then had to complete the hardest mission—carry a huge log found next to railroad tracks 2.5 miles through the city of Albany. This was a humbling experience for sure! For those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting Albany, it is on a hill. We had to carry this huge log up a hill through the middle of the city to get to our destination.
The group finds a log by the railroad tracks, then has to lift and carry the log uphill through Albany.
Our next mission was to find a target under the allotted time. Once the target was found (a fountain), we had to get in the fountain and complete water burpees until the cadre was satisfied. Following this activity, we then had another casualty mission. We needed to carry a casualty using a stretcher made of rope to our next destination in a time cap. We completed with flying colors. We then had a similar mission to the last where we needed to carry casualties using the rope stretcher method. Only this time, we had two casualties, the casualties needed to rotate every block, everyone had to be carried at least twice, and communication could not be used. The reason communication was taken away was to mimic silent attack missions in the military where they need to capture a target without anyone knowing. Unfortunately, we did not make it to our destination in time, so we had a punishment exercise (100 burpees).
The cadre was explaining the importance of effective communication and was sharing real life examples from his military career because we did not execute our first mission. We then had to perform our punishment exercise: 100 burpees.
We then walked a few miles with no mission and came upon a couple of military monuments. Our cadre talked about each one and gave us time to really look at them. After the last monument, we had one more mission to complete. We needed to carry five casualties using the fireman’s carry to our starting point under a time constraint. The casualties were to never touch the ground. We completed the mission by the skin of our teeth and did not have to complete the grueling “after party.” The “after party” is similar to the “welcome party,” but much worse.
After our group picture, we received our GoRuck Tough patches, hugged each other, and went our separate ways.
Finishing at daylight, group members hug each other and head home.
Our group walked a total of 18 miles. The whole purpose of the event was to work as a team, use effective communication techniques, and strengthen mentality. We learned that communication is crucial in completing tasks and that everyone may not understand the way your communication has been relayed. We constantly had to state and restate what we were doing in different ways to get everyone on board. We also learned that a human body is an incredible thing. Your body can withstand pretty much anything; you just need to train your mind to think the same thing.
Now you are probably wondering how this translates to my career at NACE. We communicate with people every day to make sure our events run smoothly and successfully. To do this, our communication needs to be precise and accurate so that everyone knows what we need done. Perseverance, persistence, and grit are some other qualities emphasized in this training. When one way did not work, we thought of other ways to complete our tasks. At NACE, we always have to think on our feet, keep options available, and keep pushing until we get it right. Again, this was a different professional development opportunity and I am glad I was able to learn so much from it.
Editor’s note: Tenley went on vacation after her GoRuck Tough experience.