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Senior noncommissioned officers from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment search a "detainee" Thursday during the Dragoon 7 Combat PT Challenge at Vilseck, Germany.

Senior noncommissioned officers from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment search a "detainee" Thursday during the Dragoon 7 Combat PT Challenge at Vilseck, Germany. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Senior noncommissioned officers from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment search a "detainee" Thursday during the Dragoon 7 Combat PT Challenge at Vilseck, Germany.

Senior noncommissioned officers from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment search a "detainee" Thursday during the Dragoon 7 Combat PT Challenge at Vilseck, Germany. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Boom, 49, of the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment, runs between stations in full battle rattle, including flak vest, rucksack and Kevlar during the Dragoon 7 Combat PT Challenge on Thursday at Vilseck, Germany.

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Boom, 49, of the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment, runs between stations in full battle rattle, including flak vest, rucksack and Kevlar during the Dragoon 7 Combat PT Challenge on Thursday at Vilseck, Germany. (Seth Robson / S&S)

VILSECK, Germany — Some folks’ idea of a good morning involves sleeping late, breakfast in bed and a relaxing read of the newspaper while stretched out in a La-Z-Boy or hammock.

Senior noncommissioned officers from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment prefer to leap out of bed at the crack of dawn, throw on a Kevlar helmet, body armor and rucksack and charge around the neighborhood practicing the sort of team-based physical and mental challenges they might face in combat.

That’s exactly what happened at Vilseck on Thursday morning when 50 senior 2nd Cav NCOs participated in the Dragoon 7 Combat PT Challenge.

The challenge started when six teams of NCOs assembled in front of 2nd Cav’s headquarters for a pre-dawn equipment test with points awarded for correctly packed rucks.

From there, the teams high-tailed it down the street to push five-ton trucks through the post exchange car park.

“The truck push was the hardest,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Bloom, 49, of Sacramento. “But I thought the best part was the camaraderie. We work independently a lot and we are going to have to rely on each other in combat. It helps to strengthen this bond now, before we get there,” he said.

Another short run took the soldiers to a sports field where some ran shuttles carrying jerrycans, ammunition and weapons. Others assembled machine guns.

Then it was on to Big Mike Lake, where teams loaded gear into inflatable boats and paddled to the other side. There they found several soldiers with mock wounds. And before long each team was hit by simulated grenades with members assessed as casualties.

On the run to Big Mike, they also encountered two detainees, whom they had to search by the roadside.

The teams were allotted points based on various combat lifesaver tasks, such as inserting an intravenous needle, splinting shattered limbs and carrying the wounded.

Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Diamond, 46, of Cedar Town, Ga., said the combat lifesaver tests were the best part of the event.

“I was a casualty. I was an IV recipient and I had a fractured arm. You don’t practice it (combat lifesaving) that much under pressure. Your heart rate is up and your adrenaline is up just like it would be in combat,” he said.

The NCOs also had to answer questions about 2nd Cav regimental history. The last challenge for the teams involved paddling back across the lake and running to the finish line at the Vilseck Coffee House.

Master Sgt. Daniel Massie said the rafting was his favorite part of the challenge.

“You have to work as a team. It was apparent that you had to have one person in charge and everybody had to follow his lead,” he said, adding that one team had to go back after casting off from shore minus a crewmember.

Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Martinez, the command sergeant major for 2nd Cav, said the event was designed to foster camaraderie and build teamwork among the NCOs and give them a taste of how physically and mentally challenging combat can be.

Martinez said some of his NCOs have been with the regiment five years while others arrived in the past month.

“We are a very large organization with almost 4,000 soldiers. It is important that all the leaders know who they are and work together,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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