Navy Team Wins All-Military Wilderness Challenge

OAK HILL, W.V. -- Representing the U.S. Navy, Team "Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead" was named the 2012 All-Military Wilderness Challenge champions, Oct. 6, with a winning overall time of 7:11:13.

Defending champions, Team "HT-18B" from Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla., came in second with a time of 7:24:01 and Team "MCAS New River Patriots" from Marine Corps Air Station, Jacksonville, N.C., was third with a time of 7:29:23.

The challenge was sponsored by Mid-Atlantic Region, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Department, Naval Weapons Station (WPNSTA) Yorktown and ACE Adventure Resort, West Virginia's largest outdoor outfitter. More than 200 military personnel representing all five branches of the Armed Forces competed in a series of five outdoor adventure races-52 miles over two days-in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains and on the New and the Gauley Rivers in West Virginia.

Team "Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead" was comprised of four Naval officers from four different commands across the country: Cmdr. Sue Himes, U.S. State Department; Cmdr. Todd Gagnon, Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC), Fort Gordon, Ga.; Cmdr. Andrew Cawlfield, Commanding Officer, Navy Operational Support Center, Baltimore, Md.; and Lt. j.g. Travis Dill, NIOC, Fort Meade, Md. Their camaraderie, dedication and determination brought them together for this win.

"Between the four of us, we've all had a lot of experience doing the Wilderness Challenge. Even though we never trained together, we knew what we had to do," Himes said. "We all got along - they were all quality guys with the right attitude - a perfect balance of the desire to win with the desire to have fun while doing it. I couldn't have asked for a better team."

Forty-one teams participated in the Wilderness Challenge, competing in an 8K mountain run, a 12-mile mountain bike race, a 14-mile forced hike through the mountains, a 13-mile whitewater raft race on the Gauley River and a seven-mile kayak race on the New River. For the 12th year, West Virginia has hosted the event and the state is quickly becoming a familiar site for everyone involved.

"It was such a pleasure to be involved in the 2012 All-Military Wilderness Challenge at Ace Adventure Resort, and what an honor it is for West Virginia to host this exciting event year after year," said Keith Gwinn, Cabinet secretary, West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance. He attended the challenge to support the teams and represent the state of West Virginia in welcoming the participants.

"For a state that truly embraces military veterans and also offers some of the most extreme outdoor adventures, there couldn't be a better match," he added.

For some of the challengers, it was not only the spirit of competition, but the chance to compete against the top athletes in the military that brought them to the Wilderness Challenge.

"We are all seasoned athletes who compete on our own in various types of endurance events (triathlons, marathons, ultra marathons, half Ironmans, etc.) so we all knew what we needed to do individually to be ready for this endurance event," Gagnon said.

In its 12th year, the All-Military Wilderness Challenge is reaching commands from all across the United States, from as far away as Iowa and even Puerto Rico. Over the challenge's two days, teams had to deal with everything from flat tires to broken wrists in their quest for the title of "most extreme" military team.

"Every team dealt with adversity, whether it was injuries, illness, fatigue, or breakdowns," Cawlfield said. "Our team (Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead) possessed a positive attitude which allowed us to pull together and encourage each other when faced with obstacles."

"A positive attitude, a little perspective and the ability to laugh at yourself are attributes our team possessed and it made the entire experience enjoyable," he concluded.

The top teams from each branch of service were also recognized at the awards ceremony. For the U.S. Army, Team "Dog and Pony Show" from U.S. Army Reserve Unit, Ames, Iowa, were first with a time of 8:56:12. For the U.S. Air Force, Team "OL-Q" from Defense Security Service, Quantico, Va., were first with a time of 9:29:18. For the U.S. Coast Guard, Team "Ducky Fuzz & the Master of Rubber" from the Deployable Operations Group, Arlington, Va., were first with a time of 7:44:10. Team "HT-18B" also took top honors for the Marine Corps and Team "Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead" for the Navy.

"This event could not have happened without the great teams that competed this year or without the support of Rick Bayes and ACE Adventure or the great staff from MWR Mid-Atlantic," said Mike Bond, MWR director, WPNSTA Yorktown and the event coordinator.

Even as this year's competition comes to an end, participants and organizers are already preparing for next year's Wilderness Challenge, building on the success of this year to make it even better. "Congratulations to the winners of this year's challenge and to all who participated. I look forward to seeing you back here again next year," Gwinn concluded.

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