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Sunday, February 26, 2012

You Learn To Run When A Dog Is Chasing You

So back in 1989, in Germany, My unit, 3rd Armored Division's Long Range Surveillance Detachment (LRSD), was participating in Operation Long Strike '89. It was a U.S. long range reconnaissance patrol exercise that covered about 100km of terrain in roughly a weeks time, on foot, of course. Various missions had to be accomplished each day and long nightly movements were the norm. Well, about half way through the exercise, my 6 man LRS team, of which I was the Team Leader as a junior sergeant / E-5, was conducting surveillance on a major 4 way intersection of two large multi-lane roads. We were already smoked and this day, things got worse.

Using the standard soviet counter-recon doctrine of the time, our opposing forces, played by another LRSD unit, (nothing like having your own kind hunt you down), pulled up at our intersection or NAI (named area of interest), and began searching the area for recon troops. The weather was freezing ass cold, the ground was frozen and we were laying in a surface surveillance site, in the snow, bundled in gortex and poly pro. It sucked. We used ghillie suits, natural vegetation and terrain to conceal our position and we had great stand off distance from the intersection using bino's and spotter scopes to look at the target area. But of course, soviet counter-recon doctrine planned for all that.

They were on us. Closing in fast. Boom!, we detonate our simulated claymore mine, throw smoke grenades and start bounding back, firing and maneuvering in a two man team. Then, once we got out of small arms range, we took off in a dead sprint. Yes we were weighed down with a zillion pounds of gear and cold weather clothing. I thought my heart was going to explode and my lungs were covered in gasoline with some little prick keeping the torch lit on them. Talk about anaerobic, lactate threshold training. We couldn't stop running, we had to get big distance between us and the bad guys. Then I heard a terrifying noise. A noise that you never want to hear while your running away from a fight with a bad guy. .......A DOG RUNNING !

A huge German Shepard was on my ass about to rip me to shreds. Where THE HELL did he come from??? And his handler with a zillion other dudes with AK-47's was right behind him. WTF?? HOW DID THEY DO THAT? Really simple, actually, they had 4 groups at different distances walking a large perimeter around the intersection with freaking dogs.. The enemy soldiers were only wearing running shoes, fatigues and carrying AK's- nothing else, so they could run fast while we were weighed down. You were going to get caught. And I did!

So I stopped my sprint, dropped my rifle and raised my hands - I was captured. And the dog was called off before he ate me. Thank God it was only a training exercise and not the real thing. But then again that's what training is for, to experience and learn while making errors so you won't do it during the real thing. The penalty for getting caught was being driven 13 km in the opposite direction that you were heading to set you back and make it suck alot worse. Now we only had to walk across the whole map sheet that night- great!
But they did commend us on our reaction and battle drill for breaking contact and they said we had made it the farthest away from the contact site of all the captured teams to that point. We were running fast even loaded down. Adrenaline pumping, fight or flight reaction kicking, we were moving. And I briefly ran much faster when I heard that fucking dog behind me until I realized he would just eat me in the next 10 seconds.

We wouldn't have made it 10 feet if we had not been conditioned and trained. We did battle drills fully loaded at full speed - talk about cardio. We did casualty drills, moving with a wounded soldier while being chased and under fire from the bad guys at full speed. We ran with body armor on, all the time, up to half marathon distance - common long run was a 10 miler, every week. We swam every night. We went to the track and ran sprints. 100's, 220's, 440's and 880's until you were vaporized. We ran stairs and hills, We used versa climber machines, exercise bikes and treadmills. We did ruck marches and ruck runs with heavy loads going super fast. We rode mountain bikes daily. Then we did strength and conditioning and combatives every day. This was in addition to the other specialized training that we had to do like survival, evasion, resistance and escape(SERE), communications, first aid, marksmanship, small unit tactics, camouflage and concealment, booby traps and mines, demolitions, air assault, pathfinder, airborne, tracking/counter tracking, intelligence, order of battle and vehicle/weapons identification.

You have to train with a high level of intensity that stays outside of your comfort zone. I call this the red zone. This is hard to do as your brain is constantly telling you that you need to stop, slow down, rest or even quit. You will achieve new levels of performance, once you can manage your brain's warning system. Every additional stride, step or rep that you perform in the red zone is progress. Work to expand this endurance in the red zone and you will blow through physical / mental barriers that you didn't think possible.

Train hard, train realistically, train functionally and train constantly regardless of your field. To be good at what you do requires dedication, commitment, passion, discipline, courage and sacrifice. If you want it bad enough, you can achieve it. Lift heavy, run fast and eat right and you will excel.

So whatever your career, sport, mission, job, or hobby is that you have to physically prepare for: You must be conditioned and physically and mentally prepared to go the distance. If you are an athlete, LEO, military or someone who likes hardcore training, then come check out my men's military strength and conditioning bootcamp on M-W-F at 1800-1900.

Dempsey's Resolution Fitness
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