by Ed Arntson May 21, 2020 3 min read
The Infantry Battalion that I am fortunate enough to command - 3-187 Infantry, the Iron Rakkasans - conducts an event each Spring called the Iron Warrior Challenge (IWC).
The IWC can be a single event or a series of events designed to test Soldiers physically and mentally. The purpose of this event is to link the currently serving Soldiers with those who previously served in the unit, and to remember those that have gone before us and all they endured in the service of our Great Nation. The event was started by GEN (retired) David Petraeus when he commanded the Iron Rakkasans in the early 90s, and has continued on ever since.
3-187 IN is the most decorated Infantry Battalion in the history of the United States Army, and one of the primary reasons that it holds this proud designation is for its primary role in the battle for Hamburger Hill (Hill 937, Dong Ap Bia) in May 1969 in Vietnam. Over 11 days of fierce fighting - from 10 - 20 May, 1969 - against the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), the Soldiers of 3-187 relentlessly fought uphill against a determined and dug-in enemy.
On the 20th of May, 3-187 IN seized the hill and had defeated the NVA on Hill 937. The physical and mental strength that it took to win on that hill in 1969 is still with the Battalion today, and is why we often conduct the IWC in the Spring, around the time of the Battle of Hamburger Hill.
The IWC embodies the physical and mental toughness it takes to be an Iron Rakkasan while paying homage to those in the Battalion that have gone before us.
This year's IWC was a little different than others in the past. I knew that we would be distributed across many locations for this year's IWC so I wanted to include events that were simple, yet hard and could be done anywhere.
The events for the 2020 IWC are:
All of these events must be completed in a 7-day time period. There are additional 'Gold' standards for each event for those who really wanted to push themselves. The run, for example, is 2 hours and 45 minutes for the Gold standard.
We have seen some incredible performances across the Battalion so far and I have been incredibly proud of our Soldiers' effort during each event. Many of our Soldiers trained hard for the events and it paid off - that was awesome to see.
In early March, I began preparing for the IWC with a small group from my Headquarters and everyone in our training group performed extremely well on the IWC. I've written previously about what to do with "leftover fitness" after training for a big race; well, I decided that I would use my "leftover" fitness from doing the IWC one time, to do it again!
I wanted to run with my Soldiers for one of the iterations of the 18.7 miler, so after conducting one of the early runs of IWC, I ran the 18.7 miler again and improved my time by 8 minutes - and hit the Gold standard. In the first go round, I hit the wall hard at mile 16 and was unable to keep my pace through miles 16-18. Not so on the second time as I was able to keep grinding away and push through the pain.
This spring/summer, you may not be able to do the races that you are used to doing or had hoped to do because of the virus. I'd like to encourage you to not let that stop you from creating your own race or personal challenge to meet and overcome. Maybe it's a race with friends, a fitness challenge (like 187 burpees!), or another fun way to challenge yourself and get better this summer - but don't let the virus rob you of setting and meeting goals this summer.
Across my Battalion, many of our Soldiers set and met their goals through diligent hard work - and our safe conduct of the events. You can do the same wherever you are at across the country.
Train hard. Train smart. Stay safe.
by Dr. David Minkoff
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