Heavy 001: After Action Review (AAR)
Post Author: David Kim
What’s a Heavy? “You’ll find out soon enough.” said Cadre. Gulp. Let the mind games commence! And so it began, where 80 or so highly enthusiastic but clueless GRTs duke it out in FB over what to expect from Cadre, packing lists, gear checks, what to wear, training regimens, beer quantity, coupons, packing strategy, and picnics. We can laugh about it now, how we were grasping at straws, trying to game plan for the known unknown. But who cares how sausage is made right? The final stats say 73 brave souls who toed the starting line were winnowed down to 37 bedraggled mud-encrusted weirdos that became Heavy class 001. But for me, reflecting on how we became a class and lessons learned is more important than who finished and all that.
But first, let me take a step back and frame the beginning. I really had no intention of doing a Heavy or anything for that matter as I was still taking it easy (i.e. couch potato) post GRS 001 but when Cadre Dan summoned all Selectees to be a part of the inaugural Heavy and play a special role, it was akin to a papal bull. When cadre invites you to Bragg, you go to Bragg. So with my Selection bros in tow, we had the privilege of receiving a Bud Heavy fueled debrief of our special assignments and broad strokes of the format from the inner sanctum of Cadre Dan’s ODA Team Room. Team Leader, Squad Leader, chain of command, Team/Squad accountability. Got it, or so I thought. Foreshadow to the greatest lesson Cadre has taught me to date.
The unofficial theme of the inaugural Heavy was leadership. How it cascades down from the top but it must also well from the bottom up too. Bottom line, everyone has to step up. GRTs know this. But put this to the test over 24 hours of grueling long movements filled with casualties, coupon retrievals, punishment smoke-fests, and the over-engineering of cadre-sanctioned bathroom breaks, even Selectees need remedial training that sometimes needs to be learned through pain and suffering. Given that our class was laden with GRT all-stars, teamwork and morale were high in the beginning. But as night turned into day we came to a baseball field where decimation awaited us. We all know that smokefests are part of the deal, but I think the tempo and duration of what Cadre Patrick put us through was a shock for some. You could literally see it on people’s faces. “Too cold, too wet, too muddy, too tired, too much, too long, I’m done.” People were dropping like flies. Welcome to Heavy! But time, distance, and crushing weight soon started to take its toll as everything became noticeably more of a struggle as we trudged on. Yes, physically it was draining but no matter how physically excruciating it was, there was never a moment in my mind where I thought of quitting. Of course it helps when you have teammates looking out for you. Thank you guys! But let’s not kid ourselves, the waxing and waning of selflessness and selfishness that is the inherent crucible in a GRC can make or break a class and this maxim was certainly amplified a thousand fold in our Heavy. Case in point, I was losing focus near the end because I was focusing more on my own personal survival than looking out for my squad and the class. At that point, I was in a Selection frame of mind, i.e. individual survival, don’t be last, physically perform kinda mode and not really thinking team. Big mistake. During the last night movement, Cadre asked me if everyone on my squad was accounted for. I started to count off and….two men are missing. $%#$@!!! A search party went out to look for my missing squad members and I was promptly fired as Squad Leader. What I didn’t know was that Cadre instructed my two squad members who took a bathroom break during our last long movement to intentionally hide out to test the situational awareness of the leadership and I failed miserably because I zombied out. Because of me, the class endexed with a smokefest rather than take cool guy pics at an SF monument that was ours to be had.
Don’t get me wrong, our Heavy was by no means a bummer. “We rise and fall together as a team!” and “you weren’t the only set of eyes who didn’t notice missing teammates” my class swiftly reminded me. There were so many awesome thrilling moments our class had such as visiting many of monuments of our greatest SF heroes, getting a private tour of the JFKSWCS, log PT in the Pit, bearing witness to Cadre Dan’s reenlistment, and earning the custom Bragg Heavy coin. I got to ruck with my GRT friends old and new as well as a rare opportunity to ruck with my Selection bros all at once. All my wishes were fulfilled and next to earning my Selection patch, it is my greatest GORUCK memory yet. The reason why, perhaps best expressed by Cadre Garrett’s AAR of our class because his frank and poignant feedback was the ultimate reward:
“We train to standard, not time. As you all know, the event went on for 24.5 hours. That last half hour was because the team f**ked up, SPECIFICALLY the leadership. We had a couple of cool stops to see before the end, like the USASOC memorial and 3rd Group memorial. Both humbling tear jerking emotional but awesome sights to see that immortalize our greatest heroes. But because you guys f**ked up, we had to use the remainder of the time for “education” purposes. In GORUCK you get rewarded no matter what, whether it’s seeing cool stuff, learning through humble pie, or learning through pain and misery. It is always up to the class. Other than that last two hours, I thought we did outstanding. But it’s when you are most tired, most hungry, and most complacent when shit happens and people die. Don’t let your buddies die. There is no greater regret in this world or the next as far as I’m concerned. Great to see you all again! Cheers!”