…because we are not first, we are not second…We are 3rd.
Fellowship is the glue that keeps the pax of F3 together. In the case of the eastern bands of F3, that glue was formed this weekend. It is the glue that will turn 4 separate, yet connected regions into the Closed Hand of the East. It was a lesson in leadership and life that was forged in pain, discomfort, and extreme exhaustion. Pain disappears after a while, discomfort can be reduced by shifting a log, exhaustion is cured by knowing that when you lay your head down on the pillow after GrowRuck 02 that you are “good tired”. The friendship and fellowship earned this weekend will last for a long time. It’s a friendship with committed brothers. “East of the Arboretum” is a term Dredd uses to describe anything east of the Arboretum in Charlotte. Now he will have to figure out a more respectful term. Something like “Those Freakin’ Pirates”.
This backblast was written with the collective wisdom of many pax who shared their memories, insights, and lessons learned. YHC simply collected them and figured out a lesson learned during that part of this weekend’s experience. At least they are lessons YHC learned and will hold onto for a long time. Photos for this will be posted in several places including: this link to Josh Gandy (Clam Diggers) GrowRuck 02 Facebook Album: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10212456676680617.1073741842.1492770008&type=1&l=be3e39cbdf
Planning and training for GrowRuck was half the battle. Bonds were formed and friendships were forged that would help in the gloom under a log. The Regional Q calls were an interesting process, facilitated by Robber. The Hoff was on those calls along with Tater, Gertrude, EPO, Robber and a host of other undesirable characters. These undesirable characters planned an awesome weekend, esp Gertrude and his Carterico boys. Sometimes a drunken pirate party can be a lot of fun…wait that’s another story.
The Friday Night 2nd F
The bonds of brotherhood. We arrived at Floyd’s 1921 and at first were a little scared to walk up to a house that looks like it can play a starring role in a Nicholas Sparks movie, not that YHC has ever watched a Sparks movie – he is from New Bern, right?? It was an older white two-story white home, on the edge of the industrial part of the sound. However, the patio was just what the doctor ordered, almost an oasis from the wind that whipped like a brutal beatdown until the crowd arrived and we accidentally figured out the penguin huddle. We were greeted by the Crabby Englishman who christened a drink after Dredd and OBT. One was a girlie drink, one was made for real men. You decide which is which.
Papa Smurf, his M and daughter rolled in and got to enjoy some great conversations with the Pax. The guys were introduced to the “patient conversation” watching Papa Smurf type using his Eye Gaze, amazed at what technology can do to allow a man full of joy and inspiration communicate with men he loves. It also makes us realize how we should never take the small things for granted. Tonight, was about starting to make the bonds that we would need when the extreme exhaustion and cold hit us the following evening. Crabby Englishman’s hospitality made it an awesome start to our journey.
Inspiration #CoopStrong. At 1813, 61 men and dozens of shadows and family members became silent and turned together to face the flag. Retreat is not something we run from, but a moment of inspiration and respect for our nation. As the sun sets slowly in the west, the the men of GrowRuck assumed a respectful, silent position. Then…the fun began.
YHC has a strong feeling that GrowRuck 02 was in Carterico because Papa Smurf inspired OBT and Dredd when they had lunch in Charlotte after his diagnosis and again after the Sasquatch. During the Sasquatch, Papa was walking with a cane and able to slowly and deliberately share his own words during the Circle of Trust. This time he was able to type his words using his eye gaze technology, but needed the help of a brother to hear it spoken. Dredd talked about the difference between joy and happiness and YHC thought of Papa. Here is a man who was a professor at the ECU Parks and Rec department and now is trapped inside his own body. Even though his physical abilities are waning, his heart is strong and he is the embodiment of JOY. That man loves to nod to the beat of a crazy song or to laugh at an inappropriate joke about another of our pax laying drainage pipe. He could wallow in his misery, but instead embraces the suck and finds joy in his brothers. That joy showed when brothers came up and took pictures with him at the dinner and start of GrowRuck, especially when Swaggart gave Papa a Papa Smurf hat and then went back to his car to get another one he had in there. Swaggart was known as Papa Smurf in college and it has a special meaning for him. To share what makes those two bonded for life.
There were many different ways we were able to honor Papa Smurf this weekend. We raised $700 through the raffle of the blue Rucker that Robber donated and Tater is the new, very proud owner of that rucker. We each carried a piece of Papa with us. A blue 5-pound brick with a CoopStrong sticker on it. Now YHC thought he gave appropriate instructions on how to rub that thing until it was ready, but apparently some men still need a little practice with that. It was so cool to see that stack of bricks in front of the 59 men that carried his burden. We raised another $665 in Quitters Cash, so that means that the NC Chapter of the ALS Assoc will get at least $1,365 in honor of Papa Smurf. That’s putting our money where our hearts are. If you would like to donate in honor of Nelson “Papa Smurf” Cooper, you can do so here: http://webnc.alsa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=NC_homepage
The conversation on Twitter right after GrowRuck was “Where should I put my brick?” Duck Butter summed it up the best. He put his brick on his mantel at first. Then took it to school to put on his desk. Now he can use it to talk about Papa Smurf, about ALS, about being CoopStrong, finding JOY in life, and about GrowRuck. That brick can symbolize so much.
Accountability, Ownership and No Man Left Behind. That was the first lesson we learned during GrowRuck 02. When the Cadre say ID in your right hand, cash in the left, then you do it. Unfortunately, our great and fearless Weasel Shaker “doesn’t carry cash”. That is a useful lesson if you want to rob him if he’s making a solo “sad clown” run with his earphones in, but freakin’ worthless if we wanted to really be the 2nd class Cadre Heath has led that was 100% after the inspection. The attempted solution seemed clear – OBT got cash, the Cadre were at the other end of the line. We were set up, ratted out. But that is not the point. The point is not to look for a reason to figure out how the Cadre found out. The point is to own a mistake. OBT did. As the Cadre started talking, YHC knew who the person was. Now there was no way that any of us would call him out, so the only thing to do as a leader is to take ownership for a mistake – extreme ownership. No excuses, no negation. Accept the consequences of the actions and learn from it. Unfortunately, when OBT got in the deep water, we left him there, by himself. We joined him in the exercises, but none of the 60 leaders facing him stood beside him. That is a lesson we took with us for the rest of the evening. The buddy system means no man is left behind. We failed that first test AND we learned a lesson through that failure.
“Quitting is not Authorized.” The theme for the Joe Warner Fort Bragg Heavy is to never quit. The phrase repeated all 24+ hrs is that “Quitting is not Authorized.” It’s a phrase that Joe Warner used to say to the men he led in the service and at GORUCK. It’s a phrase exemplified by Mr. Belding (56) and Boss Tweed (61) and some other key guys pushing through. Belding is 56 years old and there were several other Pax who were “RESPECT” pax. They were the men who were humble enough during the hard pushes to allow their brothers to help them, while also asking for, even demanding coupons or their rucks back to share the burden. Dredd talked to YHC during the last break before we headed on the final speed ruck. He mentioned how hard Mr. Belding pushed. He was impressed. We talked about the fact that in F3ENC we have a term called “Belding” when as pax pushes 130% even at the 6. Mr. Belding did that for a long time. Then one day he Q’d a workout where we started with 100 burpees. He pushed himself with the pax and never thought of quitting.
Pushing ourselves. Proving to ourselves. One of the things we love doing about this these events is knowing that most people think it’s too difficult and, heck yeah, we may even think it’s too difficult as well. We have to dig deep and find the perseverance within us in a place that some of us may have never explored. That is one of the things many of us will remember for a long time. That is a lesson learned by our pax, especially our pax who struggle with some things beyond what we know. We have brothers who struggle with diabetes, vision loss, and addiction, among other things. Almost everyone knew that Bono was a diabetic by the end of GrowRuck. That is something not often shared because of the sympathy often associated with it. Don’t give him sympathy, that bastard completed the Joe Warner Fort Bragg Heavy last month. Just be aware and have his 6.
Pocahontas is another one to be aware of. He very rarely shares that he has a visual condition that may soon leave him in the DARK as he says. Without the ability to see very well now and may prevent him from being able to see his daughter to graduate or get married in the future. Instead of sitting on a couch, eating Cheetos, feeling sorry for himself, he was humble enough to allow his F3 brothers help guide him through the darkness of the night. He pushed through struggles on top of struggles, which makes some of our “normal” complaints about sore muscles seem oddly insignificant. When Pocahontas literally could not see at night during GORUCK, he faced his biggest fear AND walked right through it. He walked through it with the guidance of his F3 brothers. He was able to accomplish one of the hardest things he has done in his life because of his brothers. Pocahontas has already exceeded his doctor’s dire predictions that he would be blind at 40. He is thankful for the vision he has left and will keep fighting every day. He also wants to keep his story with his F3 brothers right now. This is Vegas – so he will tell his story when he is ready. We will learn from his leadership by the steps we took together during GrowRuck.
When the going gets tough, a leader inspires. So, the suck really came out when we got wet. Twice in in the ocean and once at Fire Station 34. The thing Cadre Danny figured out a while ago and taught us this evening was that if something sucks, explaining the purpose of that suck makes it a little more tolerable because it’s inspiring. When we stopped by station 34 and heard the story of how 9/11 impacted Firefighter Smith and his family when the towers came down on his father, it hit home. Yes, the “tit nipply” cold water you just sprayed us with from an Arctic Aquifer is nothing compared to the danger and sacrificed you experienced in your career. When you realize that our struggles are nothing compared to the daily sacrifice that our servicemen and women make, it helps you to embrace the suck.
Getting in the ocean sucked. It was cold and sandy. Most of the pax decided to strip down to their base layer, which meant we had 61 almost-naked men huddling together in the ocean. That is one time where it is totally appropriate to hug a naked man. The purpose of that event had a lot of meaning for the pax, because it was a “Reverse Ice Bucket Challenge” for Papa Smurf. Instead of dumping a bucket of ice on your head, we dipped our head in icy ocean water. The next trick was to watch everyone try to get their sand caked toes back in Injinji socks. Sometimes in life wet wool socks and boots worn in the water are bettker than sand in your toes or a shell in your arch. We figured out then, that all that sucky cold water is nothing compared to what Papa goes through each day. When your wish is to simply scratch your itch in the middle of the night, that itch that won’t go away, and you can’t, then huddling with your brothers in the cold ocean seems insignificant.
Linus and the Freakin’ FNG. By the time the rain started coming down after we were patched, we had two F3 brothers as Cadre. Cadre Daniel, Linus, is one of us. Linus by name, but there is a weird light that flickers deep in his eyes when he shows up with a Mohawk and t-shirt as a Cadre. He was able to plan a beatdown that inspired us. It’s just a little bit of the “crazy” that Cadre Heath loves about GORUCK when Linus changes from a regular F3 goofy looking guy in a blue Tacoma F3 shirt, to a badass, Mohawk-wearing Cadre with a plan to break us down to show us how leaders act in times of high stress and fatigue. Before that, Cadre Heath, who is now known as Freakin’ was just a Freakin’ FNG. He taught us to freakin’ PLF (Parachute Landing Fall), luckily from an old man height. Every time one of us says “When I leave a freakin’ towel in my car, it smells like old feet for a week”, we will think of this evening and the Cadre that taught us to freakin’ lead.
Knowing the purpose and goal inspired men. After the lesson in how to perform a PLF, YHC needed to get rid of some extra water. After two steps, YHC noticed something odd. Four telephone poles, they were long and thick. Even though that is something that we all would love to be sometimes, tonight it was an ominous sign. Sure enough we found our next evolution – the Log Carry. This is where the Joe Warner Fort Bragg Heavy experience and some failures at our practice rucks played out. We had 4 teams and each team struggled and each team pushed through. We carried those logs a long way. We figured out how to carry them efficiently and how the constant burden of a tremendous weight can kill moral. It drains us during extreme fatigue. One of the key lessons during the AAR was that once we knew we could drop a log if we met our goal, we had a purpose. That purpose inspired action in all of us. We made our time hack by 1 min 27 seconds. That is a lesson worth remembering. Give your leaders a purpose to follow and watch them battle through the suck.
War Babies and War Daddies. As leaders, we honor those with experience as well as those with the vigor of youth. During GrowSchool, Dredd recognized Cousin from Cape Fear and Squeeze Play from ENC. Our War Daddy and War Baby. During the ruck, Boss Tweed from Carterico was the War Daddy and Gypsy from Carterico was the War Baby. Gypsy is a 17-year-old high school student who completed his Senior Project on the Grow Ruck. Here is a young man, who is just beginning life who had an opportunity to lead 60 other leaders under stress and extreme fatigue. He learned a lesson at 17 that will stick with him the rest of his life.
All In – An Inspired Breakfast. Sometimes when the end is near, it’s closer than it seems. We were picking up new casualties every two minutes. It sucked and we figured it out on the fly. We came out of the sand about a mile down the road from our starting point, however instead of having to double time it for another 17 min, we were greeted by a huge line of Shadows and family members and some awe-inspiring Flags. Ed Salau is a veteran who Cadre Daniel knows from Operation Enduring Warrior. He lost his leg in combat and still taught us that he has not given everything. More of his story can be found here – http://cdmrp.army.mil/cwg/stories/2015/salau_profile and here http://cdmrp.army.mil/cwg/stories/2012/salau_profile. He inspired many of us standing tall in the bed of his truck after losing his leg. He inspired many of us to the verge of having our eyes leaking as 12+ hrs of emotions, exhaustion, and struggle was put into perspective. He is a man the Carterico boys will put a heavy EH on to get into F3. He might earn the name “All In” which was the question he asked us and then told us what it really meant.
Misty is a Carterico pax who was named after a massage parlor just down from the school YHC used to be the principal of. He may have frequented the joint to rub down his marathon runner legs, but maybe not. Luckily for the GrowRuck crew, he and his crew of merry men, including Double Mint AKA “Big Sexy” were there to cook a hot breakfast and make sure we had 1st Class service. The weather was perfect. Right after the picture with the CoopStrong bricks and getting everyone patched, the rain started, then the snow further east. The Sky Q watched out for us. Protection from above is awesome.
GrowRuck 02 is something YHC and many others will remember for the rest of our lives. When lessons are learned, when they are put into action, when you push yourself harder than you ever have, with your brothers – you will create memories and bonds of brotherhood that will last forever. If the purpose of GrowRuck is to help grow Nomads and new Regions, then this event more than accomplished its purpose. The men of Cape Fear, Carterico, ENC, and New Bern will forever be bound together. Our brothers from F3 Nation are no longer just names on Twitter or in a book. They are our brothers.
Long live the Freakin’ Pirates!