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Leesville Daily Leader - Leesville, LA
  • Guardian Games build team cohesion, esprit de corps

  • What happens when you challenge 600 soldiers to a friendly competition for bragging rights among their brigade? You have the 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade's Guardian Games.
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  • What happens when you challenge 600 soldiers to a friendly competition for bragging rights among their brigade? You have the 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade's Guardian Games.
    The games took place March 27 and pitted the best from each of the 1st MEB's units in four events: Physical training test; ruck march with weapon disassembly/assembly and stress firing; an obstacle course; and a mystery event that included teamwork and common task testing.
    "Our brigade came up with this competition as a means of team-building across our diverse brigade," said 1st MEB Commander Col. Bret Van Camp. "We designed the event around a friendly competitive environment, focused on demonstrating proficiency of common soldier tasks, while challenging our leaders."
    Van Camp said there were both long- and short-term benefits to the games.
    "The short-term benefits from the Guardian Games were team building and esprit de corps among the brigade," he said. "The longer-term benefit is the opportunity to see ourselves in a manner that supports refining individual and collective development plans so that we can be the best we can be."
    Maj. Karl Jansen, 1st MEB S-3, said pulling off a competition of this magnitude took a lot of planning.
    "The hardest part about executing a plan is always the transition from taking the idea and plan and getting dozens of soldiers from various units to execute it in a synchronized manner," Jansen said. "Finding the right balance between the number of events or competitions, the cadre to run the events, and the number of competitors was definitely challenging."
    Jansen said getting assistance from each of the 1st MEB's subordinate units made the games a success.
    "Soldiers enjoy training and NCOs pride themselves on establishing challenging training for their soldiers, so enlisting the help of all three subordinate battalions, the 519th Military Police Battalion, the 88th Brigade Support Battalion, and the 46th Engineer Battalion, is really what ensured a successful execution," Jansen said. "The hard part was tying all the cadre from the various battalions and events together so everyone understood what their battle buddies to the left and right of them were doing and how their portion fit into the larger competition."
    Jansen said one valuable lesson learned from the event was the importance of starting as soon as possible.
    "The earlier that all cadre and event OICs and NCOICs are involved the better," he said.
    Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st MEB, claimed the PT test challenge, which consisted of sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups and a two-mile run. Pfc. Allen Nelson said the event was more difficult than he thought it would be.
    "I didn't expect the pull-ups, the new push-ups or having to run two miles with water cans and a litter," he said. "The water cans were bulky, heavy and not easily shared between two people. The run was truly a team effort."
    Page 2 of 3 - Sgt. 1st Class Adrienne Barnes was also a member of the winning PT test team. She said the pull-up was her most challenging event.
    "I realized that as the only female member of the team, I was probably not going to contribute as much as I originally thought I would," she said. "However, because I was the lightest member of my team, I was the one carried on the litter during the two-mile run. I tried to encourage them by singing 'Eye of the Tiger,' but I only knew one verse."
    A team from the 93rd Engineer Company, 46th Eng Bn, won the ruck march, stress shoot and weapon assembly/disassembly event.  Team member Pfc. Michael DeeGear said the event wasn't as stressful as he thought it would be.
    "The most difficult part was trying to stay together as a team during the ruck march," he said. "It was hard until my shins went numb and then it was easy."
    When asked what strategy his team employed to successfully win the event, DeeGear said, "We had a strategy? I though we were just out there to have fun."
    DeeGear's teammate, Spc. Joshua LeClair, said he wasn't surprised his unit won.
    "We had good leadership and stayed motivated," he said. "We were given a direction and purpose, and provided motivation."
    Pfc. Lakeisha Dula was a member of the 93rd Eng Co team that also won the obstacle course event. She said the course was more difficult than she thought it would be.
    "I thought it would be easier," she said. "But our team's strategy was not to give up and keep trying. I think we won because we worked together as a team."
    Team member Sgt. Petrose Suwei agreed.
    "'Start and finish as a team,' was our goal," Suwei said. "We did all the obstacles as a group, but we saw other teams running the obstacles as individuals, trying to finish as fast as they could, leaving team members behind."
    Van Camp said he was pleased with the outcome of the Guardian Games.
    "I was thrilled at the level of participation, motivation, and overall organization of the event," he said. "Competition was very close across the brigade, with winning units edging out the competition by narrow margins - all of our soldiers ought to be proud of their results."
    The 1st MEB commander said he was pleasantly surprised to see how his diverse organization can came together as a team and executed a first-rate event.
    "Our MPs who work the roads and gates, our engineers who improve facilities and training areas, and our sustainers who keep Fort Polk running on a day to day basis came together as if it were second nature to give the 600 competitors a great experience," Van Camp said.
    Page 3 of 3 - As far as holding the games again, Van Camp said he's all for it.
    "We'll certainly conduct another version of the Guardian Games in the future," he said. "We'll build upon the success of this event and will make it even better next time."

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