Deployed Forces: Elite warriors tackle muddy course in Task Force Marne’s first biathlon

| March 5, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall Jr.
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq — There are those who choose to accept the “norm,” and those who decide to challenge themselves by pushing their limits.

Forty-two of the toughest Soldiers Task Force Marne has to offer competed in a grueling test of wills during the task force’s first biathlon, held near Tikrit, Feb. 27.

These select Soldiers were hand-picked by their respective chains of command to represent their unit in the biathlon, essentially pitting their Soldiers against other elite biathletes from across the task force.

The 42 Soldiers represented each unit across U.S. Division-North.

The categories were broken down to first through third place for male and female competitors. There was also a category for overall male and female with the most points.

The scoring system was a combination of the Soldiers’ efficiency at the range combined with their run times after negotiating the muddy and wet 7.4-mile course.

“It was a test of their endurance and how well they could shoot,” explained Maj. Dennis O’Reilly, deputy division surgeon, 3rd Infantry Division, in breaking down the events. “They had to run more than 3.7 miles to the range, put on all their protective gear that they wear in combat, fire 10 rounds at a 25-meter target, then drop their combat gear, and run back; all done in ACUs and boots (with rifles).”

The biathlon, a vision of Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, the USD-North commander, was planned by Soldiers across the task force.

“We had lots of help,” O’Reilly said. “Task Force Wings ran the range. I told Wings, ‘We are going to have 42 to 60 Soldiers show up, shoot, then run off the range. Go ahead and figure that out.’ And they did a great job doing that.”

The competitors from 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Wings, led the way. 1st Lt. Valerie Aquino, Headquarters and Support Company, 209th Avn. Support Battalion; and Spc. Douglas Long, Company E, 2nd Bn., 25th Avn. Regiment; both of TF Wings, led all competitors with a combined 363 points.

Aquino also had the highest individual score of any competitor, scoring 185 points.

“It feels great,” Aquino said. “I’m glad it’s over, but it was very exciting. My goals were to not give up, and to hopefully win. I’m very happy I had a chance to represent my unit.”

Most of the biathletes felt the same way. Many, in fact, didn’t expect to perform as well as they did.

“I was surprised. I didn’t think I was going to place,” said Staff Sgt. Desiree Browning, from Co. B, 26th Bde. Support Bn., 2nd Bde. Combat Team, 3rd ID, who took third place in the female category with 99 points.

“I was just going to do my best and try to finish the race,” Browning said.Long, who finished first among all male biathletes with 178 points, said he was pleased with taking part in the task force’s first biathlon.

“I think it just shows how dedicated I am to physical fitness and keeping myself healthy,” he said. “Running in ACUs, boots and with a weapon … it really changes the dynamics of running.

“It feels pretty good,” Long added. “All that hard work paid off. I knew it was going to be tough. Every unit was going to send their best. So (winning) felt good, and knowing that you were selected to represent your entire brigade was pretty cool.”

Staff Sgt. Lawrence Smith, who won third place for the men in the biathlon, also placed in the recent Operation Iraqi Freedom Great Aloha Run, Feb. 1. 

Category: Deployed Forces, News

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