Airman marches, low-crawls and sweats her way into history: Part two

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. R. Michael Longoria
  • 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force - Iraq Public Affairs
The grueling day begins ... The alarm rang and the clock read 2 a.m. Senior Airman Courtney Beard got out of bed and readied herself for the day's events.

As her wristwatch showed 2:30 a.m., the intelligence analyst with the 467th Expeditionary Intelligence Squadron was now gathered with her Spur Ride team outside the motor pool at Camp Victory, Iraq. The team waited patiently, wearing their body armor and helmet. The Spur Ride could begin at any moment.

"Standing around waiting for everything to begin was torture," Airman Beard said.

At 3 a.m., a group of first sergeants walked up and instructed them to gather their gear and proceed to the pad. Once they were herded toward the pad, the calisthenics began. For the next 90 minutes, the group of 73 participants did jumping jacks, ran in place while holding their rifles over their heads, sit-ups and push-ups.

"They smoked us for about an hour and a half," Airman Beard said.

Now it was time to pack their rucksacks. This was a difficult task by itself. The rucksacks were located 100 yards from the pad and they had to pack each item one by one; low-crawling, duck-walking or lunging back to the pad between each item. At this time, the participants were given a chance to fall out and enjoy a delicious treat.

"It was during this time that the sergeant major was going around with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts," she said. "He kept putting them in our face and telling us we could have a donut and some coffee if we quit now."

After some more running, each team had to fully inspect their military vehicle before pushing it around the motor pool. But of course, it wasn't as easy as they thought it would be.

"The first sergeants enjoyed making it harder for us by standing on top of the hood and jumping up and down to put more weight on it," Airman Beard said.

The second station began at the bottom of communication hill at Camp Liberty, Iraq. The task was simple; run up and down the hill as a team within 5 minutes and 30 seconds. If the team didn't succeed, they had to do it again, but had an extra minute to complete the run.

"We did not succeed as a team on either of the first two tries," she said.

However, they were given a third chance to complete the run and move onto the next stage. This time it was based on each participant's individual time but with some added difficulty.

"I was already exhausted from running up the hill twice, and the third time seemed like it would be impossible to complete," Airman Beard said. "And, of course, it was at this time that they made us put on our gas mask and run up the hill that way."

People started passing out and hitting the ground. As medics tended to the fallen, those still standing moved on to the obstacle course. The obstacle course consisted of climbing over high walls, maneuvering across wooden planks, and low-crawling through mud and under barbed wire.

In addition, they had to do more push-ups, flutters kicks, mountain climbers and jumping jacks in the dirt as well as demonstrating proper room-clearing procedures. They had to complete the course three separate times, low-crawling, duck-walking or lunging back to the beginning.

Completely soaked in muddy water, the participants proceeded to the next station. They had competed against their own minds and bodies all day. Now it was time to go against others.

"We had to see who could fill the most sandbags and carry them to a location about 100 yards away," Airman Beard said.

The next station required even more teamwork. One person lead the entire team through a pitch black building after getting a quick glance at the route on a map.

"They had about five seconds to look at the map," she said. "Communication was very important during this portion in order for everyone following the leader to know what was ahead of them including stairs and turns."

The teams then had to clear the Ba'ath Party House and march to the range for another competition. The objective was to obtain the best score by shooting targets in the kneeling, prone and standing positions.

"While each of our team members shot, the rest of us had to stay in the front leaning rest position," she said. "We also had to do push-ups as directed."

Now it was break time, for the first sergeants at least. As they pulled out their lunches, the participants had to don their gas masks again and march a mile and a half to the abandoned Victory Over America Palace, which was used by Saddam Hussein. Once they got there, they were allowed to remove their gas mask, but had to clear the palace.

"Soon after that, we heard 'gas, gas, gas' and had to put our gas masks on again," Airman Beard said. "This was the first time in 14 hours I was pulled out of my world of feeling good."

They were once again marching to another palace near sniper hill on Camp Slayer, which was another mile and a half away.

"They tried to get in our heads," she said. "They told us it was going to be another 4-mile march. It sure did work on me."

(Editor's Note: This is part two of a three part series about Airman Beard and her Spur Ride experience.)