U.S. Army/Sgt. Karl Williams - Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division carry their watercraft into Cow House Creek and prepare to paddle more than three miles to the third of four challenges as part of a physical fitness challenge July 30 at Fort Hood’s Training Area 8.

By Sgt. Karl Williams

3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs

Teamwork and endurance led more than 70 leaders from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division over four challenges during physical fitness training July 30 at Fort Hood's Training Area 8.

Battalion commanders, command sergeants major, company commanders and first sergeants took a break from their schedules in order to participate in the challenge.

"The event was held to present an 'outside the box' PT event to the senior leadership of the brigade and to demonstrate a way to build heart while conducting physical fitness training," said Command Sgt. Maj. James Pippin, the brigade's top enlisted leader.

"An event like this is arduous," Pippin said. "But when you're conducting it next to your peers, it makes a soldier much more focused on not falling out."

Capt. David McCarthy, the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop commander, agreed with the premise of changing up physical training for soldiers.

"It takes you out of your comfort zone and varies the daily routine. Too often we do what is relatively easy for PT," McCarthy said.

"This type of PT also offers challenges that can't be found running up and down Battalion Avenue. Additionally, it fosters camaraderie and cohesiveness within the group," he said.

Soldiers were not briefed on each event to maintain focus on the task at hand and add a level of uncertainty.

"It's a challenge to get psyched for a series of unknown physical challenges," McCarthy said. "Conversely, not knowing the coming events kept this training exciting," he added.

In the first event, the three-and-half mile run, soldiers stopped briefly at the two-mile mark to take a commemorative photo before finishing the run at the banks of Belton Lake.

Following the run, leaders formed teams to participate in the next challenge, paddling eight rubber assault boats three-and-a-half miles to the mouth of Cow House Creek where it empties into Belton Lake.

First Sgt. Kenneth Stone, with Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, said he was prepared for the challenge based on previous physical training events with Pippin, however, padding the boats was demanding.

"I hadn't been in one in about 10 years and it takes a little practice as a team in order to execute it smoothly," Stone said.

After paddling for more than 90 minutes, the soldiers loaded their watercraft on transport carriers and prepared for the next challenge, crossing a section of the creek. Some soldiers swam, while others chose to pull themselves over using a rope extended over the water.

"I am a fairly decent swimmer," said Master Sgt. Wendell Franklin, the acting brigade special troops battalion senior noncommissioned officer. "But when you couple it with exhaustion, pants, life vest, camelback and add a pretty nice distance in between it became, hands down, the most challenging event to me."

Following the water crossing, soldiers then had to run one-mile to complete the challenge where breakfast was served.

The challenge was heralded as a success by the participants.

"Soldiers will want to train if the program excites them," McCarthy said. "This event also allowed us to train with other command teams with whom we don't normally have a close working relationship. This can help build cohesiveness across the (brigade)."

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