Royston employees complete event developed by former Green Beret
Marshall Dixon, far right holding flag, Kyle Frantz, second from right, and Adam Swartz, gray shirt kneeling on far right, were three in their team of 19. This photo was taken after they completed the challenge.
A patch. An unassuming black-and-white patch embroidered with “GORUCK Tough” was the prize three Royston employees received after completing the most grueling 17-mile trek of their lives.
But to Marshall Dixon, Kyle Frantz and Adam Swartz that little patch means a heck of a lot more than all the t-shirts, fancy medals and other swag you get at most physical endurance challenges.
The GORUCK team had to work together to successfully make it to the finish line.
Inreality, there was quite a lot of walking for the three local men. Seventeen miles of it to be exact - but in GORUCK events “walking” is called “rucking,” which means you wear a weighted backpack called a “rucksack” the entire time. This heavier version of walking also happens in a team setting where members have to work together to carry a variety of heavy, often awkwardly-shaped items all the way to the finish line. For their event, the team of 19 hauled a 110-pound ammunition box, a 200-pound gurney, sand bags and a few other items including an American flag. They also had to wear their rucksack, which was loaded down with 30 extra pounds, and bring along water, their ID and $20 for a taxi in case they quit and needed transportation.
GORUCK was founded back in 2008 by former Green Beret Jason McCarthy as a rucksack manufacturing company. He later added the GORUCK events as a way to employ decorated Special Forces veterans (there are about 150 employed through GORUCK) and develop principals of teamwork, leadership and communication that are taught in the military. Each GORUCK event, which comes in “Light,” “Tough” and “Heavy” versions, is led by a decorated combat veteran in Special Ops or Special Forces participants called “cadre.”
The three local coworkers trained for about eight weeks leading up to their own event in downtown Knoxville, which began at 9 p.m. and ended around 9 a.m. the next day. You may have seen them training, packs on, running through Jasper, or doing bear crawls across the soccer fields near Jasper United Methodist Church or at the high school football field.
When they arrived in Tennessee, there was an hour of intense “warm up” that happened before the official GORUCK event even began. The participants were then put into formation and took off down the streets.
“We didn’t even get through the first eighth of a mile and everyone was already putting stuff down,” said Dixon, a weightlifter who picked up the nickname “The Mountain” while he was there. “It was complete chaos. The cadre told us at this rate we wouldn’t finish. When he chose a new team leader we started to balance out lines and rotated the heavy items and started to work as a team. We found a rhythm. When it got hard I’d tell myself, pain is temporary but if you quit it will last forever.”
By the end, in the last few hours, the team was exhausted. Their muscles were shot but they trudged on and all 19 ruckers crossed the finish line.
“It was such a good challenge,” said Swartz. “And you learn it’s not about you, it’s about the team.”
Was it hard? You better believe it. Will they do it again? Definitely.
“No, this was not fun,” said Frantz. “But when you finish there’s such a huge sense of pride and accomplishment.”