Team Cohesion Challenge is modeled after special operations training, such as this combat controller physical training on the beach at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (2nd Lt. Michael Alvarez / Air Force)
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At least 15 airmen at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, are working out like special operators — carrying loaded backpacks during activities such as swimming, lifting, marching, or even singing.
They are the first to participate in a new Air Force pilot program, Team Cohesion Challenge. Modeled after special operations training, the program aims to get airmen involved in recreational activities that will challenge them as a team and also encourage a healthy, resilient lifestyle.
Eighteen installations will participate over the next four months while the Air Force considers whether to take the program servicewide.
“This isn’t a competition, there isn’t one winner, this is meant to encourage [airmen] ... to be part of a team-building exercise,” Air Force Personnel Center outdoor recreation specialist Benjamin Evers told Air Force Times.
The challenge has two events:
■The first day is a basewide 5K run. Each installation outlines the track for its 5K run, which is open to everyone on base and mandatory for all Team Cohesion Challenge registrants. The team — composed of a maximum of 35 airmen — is encouraged to run as one unit.
■The next day is a rucksack challenge, dubbed GORUCK Light and led by contractor GORUCK. The team participates in a four- to five-hour team-building event with a GORUCK special forces veteran, who leads the group in military-inspired challenges and missions. Participants wear backpacks filled with 30 to 40 pounds of equipment during the exercise.
Started by an Army Green Beret, GORUCK hosts events to “offer a slice of the most elite Special Operations training built for adventure-seekers worldwide,” according to its website.
“GORUCK has worked with other military service branches in the past, and members in GORUCK are former or current [military] who put on these events in their off-time,” Evers said.
One cadre member from GORUCK can supervise 35 people, Evers said, but if more airmen want to participate, it’s up to the base to look into bringing on another GORUCK cadre leader to supervise another team.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense is funding the pilot through ReCon, “a program that is designed to reintegrate deployed airmen back into society — we do that through adrenaline-type, high-adventure activities,” Evers said.
Sign-ups will be more of a first-come, first served basis, Evers said, but deployed airmen will get priority.
Airmen interested in signing up can find out who their base point of contact is through the fitness or outdoor recreation center, their force support squadron website, or from posters about the event around base.
The two-day events cost $3,500 for each installation. Bases can charge team participants a fee to offset some of the costs.
“The fee is mostly to discourage ‘no shows’ for the event,” Evers said. “But the team could also buy a team T-shirt to offset the cost of the event, or have snacks or drinks.”
If the base should charge a fee, the AFPC Directorate of Services suggests charging airmen no more than $30, Evers said.
Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, was to be first to try out the challenge July 11 and 12. The base had 15 sign-ups as of July 2, but expected more before the event, 366th Fighter Wing spokesman Trace Giles said. Airmen at Mountain Home registered at the fitness center for $30, which included a T-shirt and a barbecue after the event, Giles said.
Evers, who has participated in a GORUCK challenge, said some of the challenges “seem miserable at first, but it was a whole lot of fun.”
His teammates found themselves singing “Can you feel the love tonight,” at the top of their lungs for “anyone who would listen to their song” in the San Antonio area.
“We’re hoping that these younger airmen would be ... interested in this type of program, and we’re hoping it is successful so we can carry on this program in the future,” he said.
Team Cohesion Challenge
When and where Team Cohesion Challenge events are scheduled:*
|July 11-12||Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho|
|July 31-Aug. 1||Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota|
|Aug. 14-15||Beale Air Force Base, California|
|Aug. 22-23||Scott Air Force Base, Illinois|
|Aug. 28-29||Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts|
|Sept. 10-11||Eglin Air Force Base, Florida|
|Sept. 13-14||Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico|
|Sept. 18-19||Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland|
|Sept. 26-27||Robins Air Force Base, Georgia|
|Oct. 3-4||Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri|
|Oct. 7-8||Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado|
|Oct. 11-13||Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota|
|Oct. 17-18||Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma|
|Oct. 22-23||March Air Reserve Base, California|
|Oct. 24-25||Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas|
|Oct. 31-Nov. 1||Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico|
|Nov. 6-7||Patrick Air Force Base, Florida|
|Nov. 14-15||Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma|
*Dates are subject to change. Check with your base point of contact for more information.
Source: Air Force Personnel Center