Charlie Company Crew Competition

By Sgt. Scott Raper, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

Kentucky Guardsmen from 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 1-149th Infantry Battalion, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, carry five gallon water cans during a 3-mile race for the physically grueling crew competition at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, Iraq Nov. 4. (photo by Sgt. Scot Raper, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade)

VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq – For Soldiers, most days begin with a little physical training.  A run or lifting some weights usually satisfies most.  But when your day begins with pull-ups, then dips followed by changing a tire in full battle rattle, on to a tire flip and finishing with a run, it is probably more than just physical training.

Soldiers of 1st Platoon, Charlie Co., 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment found out just how much more during a company competition at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad.

“The idea was to give the guys a little morale boost,” said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Roberge.  “We did it to build some crew cohesion and also to refine the skills and abilities of each crew.”

Soldiers of Charlie Co. stay busy in Iraq as they continue to run convoy escort missions throughout Iraq as U.S. Forces withdraw from the country.  The company was originally stationed at Camp Speicher in Nothern Iraq.  As part of the drawdown plan, the company was relocated to VBC and will eventually push south to Kuwait.

Once the entire company was settled into their new home at VBC, Roberge was able to schedule the competition for everyone to participate.  Word got out about the intense competition and an active duty unit, 123rd  Brigade Support Battalion from 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, also wanted to participate.

“It doesn’t always happen.  We are constantly running missions, so to have everyone here at the same time is what we were hoping for, a nice change of pace for the guys,” Roberge said.

Kentucky Guard Soldiers from 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 1-149th Infantry Battalion, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, change a tire on an up-armored vehicle as fast as they can during a crew competition at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, Iraq Nov. 4. (photo by Sgt. Scott Raper, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade)

The competition was a simple idea; teams of three where each team competes in an event and is rewarded with points based upon their place of finish. The team with the most points wins.  The efforts given to complete the challenges were not so easy.

The morning began early with pull-ups and dips.  Following breakfast, with full gear weighing them down, teams were timed in their task of changing a tire on their MRAP’s (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected).  After the last lug nut was secured, the event was ahead of schedule.

“We set aside 20 minutes per team for the tire changing,” said Roberge.  “I didn’t imagine we would have Soldiers finish in five or even three minutes.  It’s very impressive how some of these Soldiers work.”

A short rest period preceded the next round which was a combined task.  Each team had to flip a 400-pound MRAP tire 50 meters, then choose one member to dash to a pile of disassembled weapons and put each one back in working order.  Yet again, Soldiers exceeded expectations and quickly finished to keep the day on track.

The mixture of competition and training was about more than just winning and the Soldiers were aware of the relevance of the tasks.

“All this helps; it puts you under pressure to be the best team,” said Pfc. Nicholas Hayes.  “Outside the wire you are under pressure too, so this helps us prepare both mentally and physically.”

Kentucky Guardsmen from 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 1-149th Infantry Battalion, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, battle each other for in the grueling crew competition at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, Iraq Nov. 4. (photo by Sgt. Scott Raper, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade)

A written exam was thrown in to test the Soldiers’ knowledge of Infantry fundamentals and to allow their lunch to settle before the culminating event.  Signal Hill is a prominent landmark on VBC.  A run up, down and around is roughly three miles.  But a simple run just would not fit into this contest.  Upon completing the three miles, each team then grabbed a water filled fuel can and dashed once more to the top and back down to finish the event and the day.

Once at the bottom and in true athletic competiveness, Pfc. Robert Schram said, “I want to go Disneyworld!”

“It feels good to have it over and done with,” said Sgt. Dathan Cottrell.  “I am proud of my team. They did a real good job.  It was as hard as I thought it would be.  Now it’s time to rest since we have a mission tonight.”

Nearly 50 Soldiers competed in the event with the opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities.  To most it was an enjoyable day, some said it was even fun to endure the grueling tasks.

“It was for bragging rights.  And it showed they are capable of doing some amazing things and that they can really work as a team,” said Roberge.

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