Like most F3 traditions, the inspiration for the pre-CSAUP Opening Prayer is unknown. It appeared, it evolved and now it is.

@RedTornado asked me to give the GORUCK 707 opening prayer. I was honored. I didn’t want to let him down. I thought about it most of Friday afternoon as I went through my pre-GORUCK preparations. This being my Third, a little ritual had developed that helped me get ready for the pain. By the time I was ready to leave for the welcome party, I had the prayer worked out in my head, or thought I did.

On the way to the SharkTank I started thinking about a book that changed everything I had planned to say during the opening prayer. The book is called I Am Third. It is Gale Sayers’ autobiography. He wrote it forty years ago and I read it when I was thirteen. I didn’t know (or had forgotten until I read it in Wikipedia this morning) that I Am Third inspired the movie Brian’s Song, which had affected me deeply when I saw it as a boy. In fact, that’s probably why I read the book. I just can’t remember.

This was a period in my life that I read a lot of athlete autobiographies. At thirteen, my coaches, the older athletes in my little town and the professional athletes of that era were the heroic role-models of my faithless life. It was from them that I learned what I knew of teamwork and self-sacrifice, to put myself last. I suppose this is the reason that I am so critical of athletes and coaches of this era. Listening to their words, it is hard for me to imagine one of them writing a book like I Am Third, the theme of which was: God is First, My Friends are Second, and I am Third.

My recollection of I Am Third was so sudden and pronounced that I changed what I planned to say. When we formed the Ball Of Man, I asked God to forge the hearts of the 53 men who started GORUCK 707 into one, and to have us remember that we are Third. God is First, our families and each other are Second, and We are Third.

Afterward, I thought the prayer was an overly subdued flop. My job was to rouse and inspire the men and I had not done so. I continued to believe that until about two hours into the welcome party when the Lead Cadre looked down at the wheezing, groaning ball of pain that was us and yelled something I had heard many times during my years in Special Forces but had forgotten: “Team is First, Your Teammates are Second, and You are Third. Don’t f’ng forget that! That is the only way you will get through this night. You have to be Third!” I had said the same thing as a young leader in the Army twenty years ago. I had just forgotten it until I heard that young Green Beret yell it in my ear Friday night. The team’s survival is dependent upon each of its members placing themselves Third.

For me, Third is the best lesson of GORUCK. It is why I endured it for the Third time. It gave me purpose through my faithless youth and young manhood. It is why we have a Third F in F3, and I believe it is the primary reason F3 resonates with the men who do it.


11 Replies to “Third”

  1. No, Dredd, the prayer was not a flop, but it’s impact wasn’t immediate. During the Welcome Party, each of us were so wrapped up in our individual pain, I believe our individual purpose was to survive it. However, once we started moving out, and several of us started to stumble in the creek, others were there to lift us back up. The longer we trudged through the night, the more I helped others past obstacles and I the less fear I felt for each time I went down, because I knew that someone behind me had my back, and with their help, I would continue to press on. By the time we hit the logs, “I am Third” was a continuous mantra in my head. It made a 30 second rest bearable to get back on the log until I could cycle through. Sometimes inspiration doesn’t show until you need it. Thank you for putting it in our mental arsenals for later use.

  2. Leadership can be such a lonely place. It’s easy to question if you’re doing or saying the right thing, and especially so before something so challenging. Thanks for stepping up for #421 as well in this role (and others), and again thanks for sharing this for those of us not at #707.

  3. Awesome work Dredd. Love it.
    This made me think of something I learned long ago as well.
    As a Pleber at USNA we were required to memorize, verbatim, a poetic lecture titled “The Laws of the Navy.”
    It’s a beast of a thing to memorize (nearly impossible, which of course is the point of requiring us to memorize it), but after all these years I still always think about stanza 5, which reminds us that we are but links in a chain, and we depend on each others strength.
    Here is the link to read the poem
    If you have a few minutes it’s worth a read.
    Thanks for the words Dredd.

    1. Also noteworthy –

      Take heed in your manner of speaking
      That the language ye use may be sound,
      In the list of the words of your choosing
      “Impossible” may not be found.

      Awesome. Thank you for sharing that.

  4. Dredd,

    Well done as always brother. The opening prayer was very inspiring and fit the bill perfectly. This is a great lesson for all of us as men. The challenge is for us to remember this as a daily aspect of our lives and not just during #CSAUP events. Great job!


  5. Aye brother…good reminder that we are actually THIRD.

    If you think about it, that’s the brillance and reverse-flow of F3. Fitness is me focused, Fellowship is other focused, and Faith is God-focused. Once we go through the sifter–like a #CSAUP–it turns that upside-down and we discover the true order of things.

    There’s a new ministry called I am Second, about putting God first and me second. But I like this “I am THIRD” because it reminds us that there is also our band of brothers out there.

  6. Dredd – thank you again for leading the BOM, the message was on point and little did we know it would be the theme for the night. I believe it was after the 1st TOL the cadres quoted you word for word. I also recall you mention this to us during our 2 hr prep. Privilege to go through this with you and the rest class 707. – rt

  7. I wasn’t thinking very clearly at the time, but I remember being certain that the cadre who yelled at us about being third had either heard Dredd’s prayer and had remade it or Dredd had put him up to it somehow. Good stuff.


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