When you think you are tough, you find out that you’re not. When you think you can’t go on, you find that you can.
As you probably know, I competed in the 2009 INSCOM Soldier of the Year event, held at Ft. Belvoire, Washington DC. Actually, there were several major commands competing, including the “Old Guard” or command garrison. 33 Soldiers and NCOs were there to compete.
I had realistic expectations for myself. There was a lot of pressure because others had what I considered unrealistic expectations. I’ve had so much on my plate with college and work plus studying for the SOY, that to tell the truth, I didn’t feel completely prepared.
After a 9 hour flight from Frankfurt, Germany, myself, my E7 sponsor as well as my brigades NCO representative and her sponsor set up in a hotel. It was good to get a full day to recover before the event but was nonetheless tense. I’d reached a point of over-saturation of Army info, to the point where I was forgetting things I should have known.
When the whole thing started, we were bussed to Fort AP Hill, just outside Belvoire where we would be assigned bunks, and weighed and issued equipment. I stepped onto the scale and to my amazement, it showed me to be lighter than I’ve been since college. (169 lbs) Not much more than 6 years ago I was about 15 lbs heavier. Lots of running and not much eating will do this. Really I don’t run that much, but it’s a lot for me. There were the usual double-takes when I reported my age to the guys taking weights. I’ve come to be a bit embarrassed about it. Even though I think many people give me compliments, I feel like I should be further along in my Army career at this point in life.
Sunday, the first day, was easy. It consisted of the weigh-in, essay and multiple choice written exam. We were assigned bunks in a building that appeared almost pre-historic–or at least pre-cold war. The beds sagged and creaked. This was part of the test. Added stress, little things that wear you down and make simple tasks difficult.
The following morning began the real stuff. An Army physical fitness test. Though I’d maintained a high level of fitness, I really hadn’t tested myself in an Army PT test, so my exact numbers were in doubt. A CSM explained to us that the standards would be of the highest order; precise pushups and situps–no cheating. He assured us that out scores would be lower than what we were used to because of the standards.
But that wasn’t the case for me. I proned for the pushups and felt like a jackhammer. Each pushup was perfect and the scorer commented: “Damn, those are some good pushups.” 95 presses later, my time expired. I was happy with my score. Next was the situps and I managed 83. Both scores were far beyond the 100% for my age group, and actually for any age group. Now the run–always the question. With the jet lag and the sloped track, I knew it would hurt–but I’m good at ignoring physical pain. It was a half-mile track and with the number of runners, my plan was to jet to the front quickly so I wouldn’t have to dodge people later on when I was tired. By the second lap I was feeling like I was going to vomit. I didn’t care. I like the taste of vomit. One runner held a pace in front of me, the only Soldier who’d competed in last year’s event–SPC Balog, an MP form Ft. Belvoire who competed in triathlons. I crossed the finish line at 12:12. Considering how much this run hurt more than most, I was fine with that. In all, it turned out to be one of the finest PT tests I’d ever taken.
To be continued…