Maybe the coolest patch we give out all year. Actually, no maybe it’s a fact, and there is only one way to get it. The GRT Reunion rolled in to New Orleans this year and the party was something that no one will soon forget (or remember in some cases). #NOLA2016 this was one for the record books.
Let us rewind though, every good story starts at the beginning. Otherwise you’re just reading about a bunch of people you don’t know at a thing you weren’t at.
There’s nothing like traveling half way across the country and not even earning a patch. So I made my own. Going from a member of GORUCK Nation to a member of GORUCK HQ isn’t without it’s growing pains. Mostly it’s stuff like “Go scrub the toilet” or “We need more beer” or if you’re lucky enough to be Jason’s cousin like I am it’s like “Hey, I need you to go get me milk so Emily doesn’t yell at me again”.
Another one of those growing pains happens to be going from someone that gets to and loves participating in events to someone that helps run support and make sure they are executed well. So when you get the chance to pile in a mom bomb (minivan, Garrett’s words, not mine) with 5 other members of HQ for the GRT Reunion, you take it, you take it every single time.
It’s been my experience in life there are pretty much two types of people when it comes to road trips, there are the “No we aren’t stopping, we are making good time, let’s get there” group, and then there is the “Oh look, the world’s biggest ball of yarn in 10 miles, we’re stopping” crew, needless to say we were the latter.
Garrett got out of the Army a few months ago, he’s pretty much spent his time doing everything he wasn’t allowed to when he was in, like growing his hair and having a gnarly beard. He’s become quite quite the head banger too.
As a rule Nick tends to take everything too seriously, it is our job as friends and coworkers to stop him from that. This usually results in it escalating before deescalating but it’s still pretty fun to watch unfold. Luckily (for Nick), he didn’t hit anyone. Have you ever been in a van fight? It doesn’t end well I’m told.
If you know Garrett, then you know he loves everything Boston, including but not limited to The Patriots. There’s a reason he’s a fan and not a player, his hands might as well be frying pans.
We made it to ‘Bama just in time for lunch, Kit was in charge of finding a spot with some “local flavor”. That took us to a place called Wintzell’s Oyster House, if you’re ever in Mobile, AL, it’s worth checking out.
You can usually tell how good a place is going to be within 60 seconds of walking in the door by looking at their walls. If the walls are covered in random stuff from decades and decades of operation, you probably walked in to the right spot. And we were in the right spot.
Raw oysters are an acquired taste, or so I’m told. Who am I to say no to a local specialty? So bottoms up. All in all, not half bad. Like eating a big cold wet booger, but tasty.
Here’s a fun fact. Everyone in the van owns a GR1, we use our rucks just about every single day for anything we do. However, when you’re traveling with the photographers there is this extra GR1, this GR1 is ONLY for pictures, that way it doesn’t get all beat up and ugly and they can get perfect pics every time. Personally, I think our gear looks better a little beat up and dirty, but there’s also a reason I’m not a photographer. Bottom line is that we end up lugging around an extra ruck almost everywhere we go (If you want your very own picture perfect GR1, and why wouldn’t you, you can snag it here).
One last family shot and we are back on the road.
The Mississippi and Alabama parts of the trip go by pretty quick. Not a whole lot to see just miles to cover.
When we arrived at team house the party had started without us. So we just jumped right in.
The drinks were flowing and the good times were rolling ( I think New Orleans has a saying for that… Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? No? Ok, moving on). Shout out to Buffalo Trace for enhancing our New Orleans experience. If you’re a bourbon fan check them out, if you’re not a bourbon fan, well you probably should be. Oh, they’re also partnering with us on some upcoming War Stories events so it’ll be the perfect chance to give them a try.
If you don’t know Andy, you’re missing out. He’s kind of quiet, rarely smiles, and as a rule, he hates just about everything at least until he doesn’t (I’m kidding, kind of, I’m kind of kidding). In NOLA though, he smiled, like a lot. If that’s not a glowing review for a place I don’t know what is.
It was about the time that a couple people walked in with hand grenades (the drink, not like the explosive, even though you could argue enough of either would have about the same effect), we headed out to Bourbon Street to see what all the fuss was about.
Let me just say, it lives up to the hype. That is if you’re looking for a place where absolutely nothing is off limits and no one tells you what to do (or what not to do) then Bourbon Street is home for you. Which is probably why we don’t have any pictures of that night, honestly it’s probably a good thing.
The next morning we all woke up… slowly, very very slowly. After doing a head count, we realized we were down one guy (the FNG, shocker). So clearly we spent the next hour making up every possible explanation of what could have happened to him (note, our stories were probably better than what actually happened, so we decided that they were true, sorry Phil). We headed out for a family breakfast. We needed to eat, after all, it was Challenge day.
I don’t care if you’re a participant, Cadre, shadow, or some kind of weird combo of all 3, there are pretty much two things you do before an event. Try to nap, I say try because you never really get more than an hour or two if you’re lucky. And, probably more importantly, eat. NOLA has some of the best food in the country, maybe the planet. So a few of us headed out.
We stumbled into this little “off the beaten path” spot called Cafe Du Monde. Kidding, other than Jazz music and Mardi Gras, the Cafe is just as much a NOLA culture as anything down there. Open since 1862 it “closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans”, I can’t make this stuff up, that’s how they describe their hours on their website.
They specialize in two things, coffee and beignets. The beignets (pictured above) are diet friendly containing zero calories and definitely won’t give you diabetes. If you’re prepping for a Challenge a diet of beignets is pretty much the only way to go. I’m not a doctor though so maybe don’t take my word for it.
Literally the happiest Nick has ever been.
After a little siteseeing it was time to head back and get some of that “sleep” people were so looking forward to before a big night out in the city.
Jason was ready to go. It’s easy to get excited for your second Tough ever. We probably had to tell him to calm down a dozen times. Here’s the good news, Jason is on the hook for at least 1 Tough a year until he dies. Which is probably a pretty good idea for anyone that works at HQ. So if you missed out this year, you can still do an event with him.
Oh yeah, we did this thing while we were in NOLA, a GORUCK Tough GRT Reunion. Maybe you’ve heard of it? In all seriousness, it was a great event, it’s something that every GRT should do at some point. You for sure show up for the party but you can’t miss the event.
No one will ever try to tell you that the Reunion is the hardest event we run. It’s not, far from it, the event is almost not even what the weekend is about. It’s about the people. That being said, you should probably train, like, I don’t know, anything above zero for it. You aren’t showing up for a Light.
It didn’t take long to get weird. Here you can see Garrett doing his best John Travolta impression from Saturday Night Fever with John Steele acting as the disco ball.
Speaking of John Steele, New Orleans was his 100th event. God knows what kind of mileage, hours, or weight moved that breaks down to, but it’s a lot. Like a lot a lot. So congrats John, we’re glad we found you, hopefully you’ll be around forever.
It doesn’t count if you don’t get a team pic and the city offered a couple places to get some really good ones.
And eventually patches got handed out. Smiles and beers all around, and one person asking for the best advice on how to remove 100 temporary tattoos before she starts her new job on Monday. Congrats GRT Reunion Class 002, you earned it.
Just a couple of bros doing bro things in NOLA. Nothing to see here. Move along.
All types show up for these events, doesn’t matter if you’re kind of new to the family or if you’ve done Selection, like 3 of the guys here… Plus Kling who definitely only did half a Selection. Go ahead and ask him about it.
We did have a party to get to though. So we wrapped up at the endex and headed back to Team House.
Remember the FNG we lost? He survived his first Tough and took a nap with a pile of tootsie rolls. Your first Tough is always a little mind boggling, doing it in NOLA for the GRT Reunion, that probably makes it worse.
Garrett was kind enough to cook us jambalaya for the after party, no joke, he had a guy telling him what to do but it was pretty much the Cadre that cooked and it was DELICIOUS! So thanks guys, you killed it. It made for even better breakfast the next morning, I think we are all still kicking ourselves for not bringing some back to Jax.
Local brewing company Abita Beer was kind enough to donate some refreshing refreshments for the after party, and they were delicious. Big thanks to Abita.
It didn’t take long for the Challenge hangover to wear off and everyone to get their second wind, actually at that point it was more like their 5th or 6th wind but you know what I mean. The shots of water here helped… water, yup.
And before you know it everyone loves everyone. It’s all smiles and hugs and cheers and talking about who had the heaviest log, standard post Tough talk.
Bee Yang, one of the best people on the planet. Old school GRT, class 281 (which is better than 280, just ask him). He’s actually “retired” but stuff like this gets him to dust off his ruck from time to time. His blog is worth checking out too. It’s pretty much just about him not being able to reach stuff on the top shelf, not training for things, and how to pass an HCL (HCL, not HTL, that’s how old school he is).
Everyone loves everyone, but EVERYONE and I really mean EVERYONE loves them some Bomber. Great dude, great GRT, and he never stops smiling. Pictured here with his shirt on (which is rare), he was a huge part of why we brought the GRT Reunion to NOLA, and he was one hell of a host. So if you had fun (and we know you had fun), thank him. He will take thanks in the form of shirtless hugs and selfies. #dibs
And once all the bourbon is gone and the adrenaline high has worn off, just like that it’s over. Teddy bear night night and back to your bed of tootsie rolls. New Orleans hits you hard and you do your best to hit back, know this, the house always wins. At the end of the day I think Kling said it best, “Goodbye NOLA!! It was great to see so many friends again, I hate heading home after having so much fun with all of you weirdos but I guess it’s gotta happen. Though I think this was the first city where we weren’t the weirdest people out at night…”. So cheers to not being the weirdest people out at night, even though we are totally ok when we are.
Until next year GORUCK Nation, we can’t wait to do it again. The only question is, where? More details next week. So check back and sign up, it’s a party you won’t want to miss.