Guest Post by Mattie Duppler
I was challenged to do a GORUCK by my friend who has organized several custom challenges. I was highly skeptical of the entire thing, but I wanted to prove I could do it so I committed to our GORUCK Custom event in Quantico. I started training with my friend and other GORUCK veterans to get used to moving in a new way. It hurt, and surprisingly, I liked it. But I struggled with the question of how I would fare in the actual Challenge. As it got closer, I felt physically prepared for the night ahead; but as I runner, I know that it doesn’t matter what your body can do if your mind fails first. I’ve run a marathon, but that was four hours of work. How would I react at hour six of the GORUCK? Or hour 10?
My team, many of whom have several GORUCKs under their belts, had a lot of great blog posts and advice on getting your mind prepared for the Challenge. Ultimately, it is very simple: know why you are out there. And then hold onto it for as long as you need to.
But why was I doing this? Having a Custom challenge organized by my friends and designed for the purpose of supporting a mission helped answer this question for me. The purpose behind our GORUCK was to raise funds for the Third Option Foundation, a group that supports CIA special operators and their families. Learning that these men are left out of the traditional support structures many other veterans have access to by virtue of the top secret nature of their work made it obvious to me why the Third Option Foundation was so important. Surprising to me as a novice was that GORUCK demonstrated a commitment to this cause as well. Cadre Shredder led our event as a crash course in the OSS – we learned tactical skills and communication methods. Every directive he issued had a purpose behind it, and he explained to us why the diligence he was demanding of us was important; if it was critical to the survival of an OSS officer, it was critical to us. We were even briefed by members of the Third Option Foundation at one point at the night, reminding us why we were out there to begin with.
I was surprised by a number of things during my first GORUCK: the complexity of some of the tasks, the amount of research and attention the Cadre paid to align the event with our fundraising mission, the way fatigue hits your brain first and works its way down. But I was most surprised by what it made me feel. I had expected to chafe at receiving direction from a total stranger for an entire night. I had assumed there would be lost tempers, and heated exchanges as people grew tired and sore. Instead, I experienced being a part of a team that was learning together what it really means to move for a purpose. There are few opportunities in civilian life to be exposed to extraordinary leadership and learn from it. Cadre Shredder gave us that opportunity at our Custom GORUCK. He told us why what he was asking of us was important, and believed we were capable of figuring out how to accomplish it. He disciplined us when we failed, but he never let us lose sight of why we had been given the responsibility of succeeding: those who served were given no other choice so neither were we.
All told, the cadre summed my GORUCK experience up best at the end of the night just before he handed us our patches: “if I had told you at the beginning of the night what you were going to do, you wouldn’t have believed me.” I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in a custom GORUCK and to share this experience with friends who are motivated by a shared and important cause. Looking back, I never had to doubt why I was out there at all; GORUCK, Cadre Shredder, and the rest of my team never gave me a reason to.
*Photos by Drake Springer