GORUCK Heavy - Ft. Bragg AAR

GORUCK Heavy – Ft. Bragg

After Action Review (AAR)

Written by Kaitlyn Bunker


Since there were a lot of AAR reports about what happened during Fort Bragg heavy, mine will be mostly about what I learned from it and what got me through it.  The first thing I want to mention is most important to me, which is to be ready to work as a team.  You will be supporting your team mentally and physically, and your team will be supporting you in kind.  Sounds simple, right?

I definitely made mistakes preparing for this, but hopefully they will help with planning for future GORUCK Heavy’s.  I used a radio ruck during this Heavy... don’t use a radio ruck for a Heavy, you will not be able to fit enough.  It will get through it, but I would definitely at least try the GR0 if you have a small back (which I heard is about the same length but more room inside).  I had one pair of extra socks and a spare long sleeve cold weather shirt.  Those two extra things did not stay dry for long after I finally decided to change into them, in which I paid for by shivering nonstop once we got to log pt/water torture and at times before that. 

Thank you to my team who helped me tie my shoelaces multiple times since I couldn’t feel my fingers


If you do use a Radio Ruck do not use all bricks for the weight, this wasted room in my all ready small ruck, not a good choice.  So read the cadre’s packing tips!  After you pack, read them again to see how your packing work can be done better.


I was nervous in the beginning on whether or not we could be dropped because of our PT test in the beginning.  I didn’t think we could, but I didn’t want to take anything for granted and let myself slack.  I knew this was the only part of the Heavy that was based on individual performance and the last thing I wanted was to be dropped because I couldn’t do enough proper pushups or sit ups during the two minutes.  (Pushups and I are working on our relationship, it’s still very tense.)  Which brings me to this:  Awesome job if you were able to do all of your pushups and sit ups correctly without taking a rest, remember your mental strength should be just as spectacular.  The cold water will not care if you did 10 or 50 or 100 pushups, neither will the cadre when they decide to mind fuck with you about doing 12 more miles at what you thought was the finish. 


                                                                            Be there for your teammates.

                                                                            Be there for your teammates.

If I needed a break from something I was carrying, I would pass it off and then try to find someone else to help.  Most likely another weight will be using other muscles or at least will allow you to hold it differently from the weight you just gave up, so even trading a weight will help, as most of your team will be carrying something anyways.  My team had a lot of weights so most everyone was helping carry something.  Other teams may not have had as many weights, but the downed pilots that were used I know were exceptionally heavy and I have a feeling there may have been a lot of switching there.  Heavy was made to push you way farther than what you thought was your limit, so I hope everybody goes in ready to do exactly that.

Teamwork.  The first team to bend their arms on the log had to go back to water torture.

Other than team work, my own motivation was a huge factor to get me through.  I literally used every comment that was said to me or quote from books I had read, whatever to help motivate me and continue.  (The Red Circle by Brandon Webb was very interesting and motivating).  I had a few people tell me that “statistics show” I most likely would not finish and others just say I probably wouldn’t make it through the first half.   I believe some said this to try and motivate me by trying to prove them wrong and some I think just didn’t want me to be disappointed if I did drop.  Of course I did have a lot of encouraging words from others saying I would do great and I appreciate all the positive comments I got before and during (aka my team) the Heavy. 

I was lucky to have a lot of other forms of motivation to help me through, and an important one to me was to have my expectation to finish, to suck it up and keep going.  I knew it was going to be miserably cold there and a little bit hard to prepare for exactly how cold, so the “Don’t Fucking Quit” (DFQ) phrase went right along with this holding up my expectation of finishing.  When we were doing bear crawls through that freezing cold, muddy water right after log PT and I could feel rocks digging into the palms of my hands, along with the cadre yelling at me to go faster, I just kept telling myself to suck it up and that they had been here before most likely going through a lot more than what we were doing.  Also, the cadre told us to go faster because they really were serious about doing it again if you were too slow or came in last (It pays to be a winner.)  To reiterate a strong point - expect yourself to finish and to push yourself farther and harder than any other challenge.  If you expect those random moments of complete insanity, it will be much easier to take them on with your team and push through them. 

Notice the expression of joy I have!  I’m the one behind the flag.


I kept reminding myself on how lucky I was to be able to have the experience to be on Fort Bragg and complete a heavy.  I loved the moments of passing by memorials and other various buildings or using the same paths as what is actually used for training in the Army.  Listening to the different cadre speak about  their experiences while you might feel bad about being cold will help you try to stop shivering very quickly.


My last comment would be this.  Try not to freak out about little things, trust your gut.  I bought new boots 2 weeks before the heavy.  I rucked in them twice (once 6 miles fast pace and once 3 miles fast pace).  I did wear them every day around my house to try and get use to them and then also once for a 5 mile boot camp ruck.  I’m not saying wait until the last minute to buy boots, but don’t let something like boots freak you out because you’re not sure they’re completely broken in.  Try to focus on what you need before and during the Heavy, trying to figure out if you have a blister forming won’t make it any better if you do have one.  I didn’t have any blisters after the Heavy.  The biggest problem I had with them was tying them when I lost feeling in my fingers, in which my team did great in helping me out with that part!


Little tips from cadre I heard throughout the Heavy that helped:  Don’t Fucking Quit, the next 24 hours are about the people around you (definitely listen to that one), stop feeling sorry for yourself, don’t be last, hurry up, look busy, don’t be last and some other things that were yelled at me while trying to zip my ruck with my useless fingers. 


Thanks for reading my AAR, Fort Bragg definitely pushed me to my limit and all I could do throughout it was tell myself DFQ!!  (Cadre Dan helped remind us about that a lot.) 


-Kaitlyn Bunker


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