Last year, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research participated in the Wilderness Challenge in Fayetteville, W. Va.
Teams of four competitors, with at least one member being female, from all branches of service competed over a two-day period covering more than 50 miles of West Virginia Mountain Country. This competition tested the team’s endurance with a variety of events which included: a 13 mile uphill mountain bike course, seven miles of Class I-III rapids in a two person combination kayak, raft and canoe, called a "duckie", an eight kilometer (5 mile) cross country mountain trail run, a 15 mile hike over mountainous country, and a 10 mile navigation through Class V whitewater rapids down Gauley River in a four man raft.
The Navy Mid-Atlantic Region, Moral, Welfare and Recreation Department located at Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, WV have coordinated the competition since 2000. Each year the distances and routes vary, however the core events remain the same so teams have an idea of what to train for prior to the start of the competition. While some teams were formed months in advance, others were formed at the competition without any prior training together. Throughout the competition each group was required to pass several unknown checkpoints together as a team. Some groups even went as far as to tie one another together with bungee cords or even circle back to encourage their slower teammates to ensure they finished together. All competitors who participated in the Wilderness Challenge received a commemorative coin at the completion of the last event and walked away knowing they had put their endurance and will power as one team to the test.
This year was the first time that the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research participated in the Wilderness Challenge.
The Soldiers competed in the competition to test their endurance, teamwork and skill that took 216 men and women representing all military services and the U.S. Coast Guard through more than 50 miles of rugged West Virginia mountains and white water rapids. The Soldiers of WRAIR did the challenge to hone their skills of teamwork and test their willpower to succeed. Regardless of whether they finished first or last, this competition built a valuable foundation of respect and admiration for one another. Unit cohesion and morale were definitely part of their drive for the accomplishment of each event. On numerous occasions, Soldiers were witnessed displaying the Warrior Ethos "I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade". In the end, the biggest reward for each Soldier from WRAIR was more respect for their fellow comrades and teammates.