Team RWB GORUCK Leadership Camp: Complete!

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Blog written by: Mel Barkalow

I applied to attend the Team RWB GORUCK Leadership Camp a while ago, and got notification of my acceptance while I was in Minnesota attending to my dying father. Receiving that email meant so much to me. A lovely glimmer of happiness in a world of smothering sadness and darkness. Of all who applied – I was one of the lucky Eagles chosen to attend the Team RWB GORUCK Leadership Camp here in Boise, Idaho. Members of Team RWB came from all over the United States: North Dakota, Washington, Montana, California, Utah, Colorado, etc. Some members were in positions of leadership within their communities and others were in the process of starting their own local area chapters. And then there were some members, like me, who are not titled in leadership positions, but take an active role in their community.
Camp started Friday evening and concluded Sunday afternoon.  We gathered at a local Team RWB member’s farm to have a meet and greet and do our introductions.  I arrived late and extremely harried from work.  I found myself having a hard time concentrating or caring for much of the evening’s activities.  No matter how hard I tried to pay attention, my work day kept intruding in to my thoughts.
Sun set and we had a small fire. It was dark. I took this time to separate myself from the group and hang out on the outskirts with the volunteers (whom I knew and are friends with). One of them, who has a much greater understanding of my job told me she would listen whenever I wanted to talk about it. I thanked her. And moved away and cried while the rest of the group mingled. I wanted to erase those images and words from my mind of my work day. But they stayed front and center for much of that evening. And kept me awake for a while at night.

The next morning we trekked to a local fitness center where we had classroom discussion on leadership and Team RWB values. I was still distracted from work the day before and at times on the verge of tears. I have taught myself that crying is a form of weakness. Even though I know this to be logically incorrect, I get caught in that old way of thinking often. There were many times I wanted to share my struggles, but I was also ashamed of myself for having those struggles. Work rarely bothers me. I keep it nice and compartmentalized and move on. I discuss things with fellow coworkers, often times in a manner the public may view as crass or distant or inappropriate. But that is how we release the stress of our job. How we do not go crazy after time. It is also how we bond and cement ourselves as a sort of family. We understand what one other goes through much better than a general person off the street. And it is this reason that I tend to prefer the company of veterans. They often have a better understanding of this mindset. And respect it.

Before I knew it, it was GORUCK time. I could not wait to share my passion of rucking with the members of our group. Many of whom have never attended an event before and were nervous to do it. Clarity set in for me. I was in my element. Exercise is my happy place. The thoughts and images from work the day before – vanished. I now had a purpose. And it was to ruck. It was to help my fellow Eagles on the ruck.
We lined up and started out. Those of use who were GRT veterans were there to help, participate and at times, observe the discussion more than chime in. It was to give those that have never done an event, a chance to lead, speak up and recognize times when action and discussion was needed. The GRT veterans corralled and corrected to help the new ones understand better. Rather than a standard PT Welcome Party, we did a 30-min AMRAP broken into five groups of five different stations. Then we got in the Boise River (my favorite!!) and plunged our faces under water. Then it was time to move on.
We started out as an 8-person litter carry of our casualty. We rucked it up to Castle Rock near Table Rock.  Which meant a steep rocky, dusty single track trail with crumbling edges and scraggly itchy sharp dried out plants on either side. We rucked it up that incline and made it to a very scenic vista. Time to rest. Talk about Mogadishu and the sacrifice the soldiers made that day to help each other out. Then it was time to ruck off the promontory and back down…while carrying our casualty. I volunteered to carry for much of that time. I wanted the additional challenge of carrying him to push me harder and work myself more. I do not like simply rucking without carrying an additional load. I feel that I am not working hard and could be doing more.

We picked up a fallen tree along the way. It was very light weight and easy to handle compared to previous fallen trees I’ve had to carry in past events. But I had to keep reminding myself that this event is not a standard GORUCK. It is to build leaders and push people who do not know rucking past their level of comfort and introduce them to something that builds team and leaders.

When we got to Endex, we got to do the oh-so-lovely Tunnel of Love and then the inch worm push up. At the very end, we had to hold the push up ready position for the duration of the Ballad of the Green Berets.

Unbeknownst to us listening to the song, the volunteers were placing our GORUCK Light patches on our rucks. Then we lined up and got our RWB GORUCK Camp patches. We all did it together!  And everyone did it with such a good attitude. What a great group of people, and what a great experience to go through.

goruck-patch

Before we wrapped up camp for the weekend, we held some discussions on leadership and effective leadership styles. Reflecting on the differences between genuine and authentic, and discussing empathetic leadership. We had a fantastic discussion. People listened actively and participated in a mature and eager manner. It was such a relief to be in such an open-minded communicative learning atmosphere. Where people want to be there. They want to learn and share and express and debate. I wish we had more of that in our lives.  Rather than attack and deride.

The GORUCK event helped clear my head. I do not mull on the events of work. I had my meditative Zen moments and reached peace within myself. And I got to share it with others. I certainly hope some of them get what I do out of challenging your body. Pushing it to work harder and the amazing rewards of accomplishing something you were not sure you could do. This is one of the main reasons I do GORUCK. I feel like I am a better person both personally and as a part of a community after I participate in an event. The bonding you can do with others at an event is a wonderful thing. I have made many friends through my rucking experiences. And now that I have gained more insight how to be a better leader, I hope to share my passion for exercise and rucking to others and help them reach mindful clarity and hopefully peace and happiness as well.