Story by Lt. Col. Varinka Ensminger and Spc. Jesse Elbouab, Kentucky National Guard
HASTINGS, Neb.--Soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard competed in the inaugural All-Guard Endurance Team 2020 Qualification event at the Nebraska National Guard Greenlief Training Site in Hastings, Neb., Aug. 29-30.
The endurance team, specializing in long-distance obstacle races, spawned to broaden recruiting by engaging a multi-dimensional athletic population. The desire is to bring on potential recruits that are regular competitors or have interests in obstacle races, such as Savage Race, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and American Ninja Warrior. These events consist of strength, speed, physical and mental agility, and focus on skills relative to the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT).
The Kentucky National Guard Endurance Team comprises two members from the Kentucky Marathon Team, Spc. Korey Johnson from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Allen Davis of the 307th Support Maintenance Company, and two members of Kentucky's Army Ten Mile teams, Sgt. Chad Terry of Detachment 1, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-149th IN, and Sgt. David Lee also from A Co., 1-149th IN.
Lt. Col. Varinka Ensminger of Joint Force Headquarters, a regular competitor in the endurance events, opted to support the team from the sidelines while nursing her knee injury from earlier this year.
"I am beyond blessed to have avoided injuries and maintained my physical fitness at a competitive level," said Lee. "It's a dream come true to be a part of such an amazing running family and able to do something you love with many great people."
Colorado Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Mark Jones helped coordinate the first endurance team event. The event brought National Guard Soldiers together from around the country to compete for a chance to be on the national All Guard Team.
Jones was initially a marathon team member before getting involved with the development of the endurance team. Jones said the ACFT implementation is just one example of how this is a significant transition period for the military. The endurance team is a way to capitalize on recruiting and retaining more versatile Soldier and Airmen athletes in the National Guard.
The All Guard Endurance Qualification Course involved two full-day events.
Day one included a mental conditioning course by Michael Caron, Founder, and CEO, of Get Burly LLC. At Get Burly, their mission is to motivate, inspire, and encourage people to make and sustain the commitment to be the best version of themselves.
Presenters also included Michael's assistant coach, Yancy Culp, the CEO and owner of Yancy Camp, one of the top tier Obstacle Course Racing Programs globally.
Day two included the Endurance Team Trails. The racecourse started with DEKAFIT and combined ten fitness zones focused on functional fitness. Soldiers completed the fitness zones indoors and proceeded outside for a 7.5-mile obstacle course that incorporated traditional military obstacles with ACFT stations.
Sixty-one male and ten female competitors fiercely tackled the grueling course for a spot on the All Guard Team. Sgt. Lee led the team, placing 27th in a time of 2:06:14, followed by Sgt. Terry in 31st place with a time of 2:09:31. Spc. Johnson came in 33rd with a time of 2:13:44, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Davis rounded out the teams finishes at 40th with a time of 2:22:26.
Terry and Lee ran the majority of the course together. They pushed each other, yelling "Get Burly" the whole way. It was evident to their competitors how much their bodies ached from the challenge when their voiceboxes finally gave out, too.
Johnson was one of the fastest distance runners competing that day, but the strength and power events humbled him. He stated the experience gave him a platform to elevate his athletic skillsets.
Davis was the sole qualifier for the All Guard Endurance Team and earned 2nd place in the 50-55 age category. Davis has competed in military sports competitions for more than 20 years and prides it as a unique and desirable privilege the guard offers.
"Endurance training has become a major part of my life and has improved my overall quality of life," said Davis. "Ultimately, it has given so much more than expected."
In addition to the Endurance team, the Kentucky Army National Guard has a marathon running team.
For the past 36 years, runners from the Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team have competed for their spot in the All Guard Marathon Team.
The Soldiers that make the national-level marathon team travel and compete at events nationwide, representing the National Guard, and interacting with host communities. For an avid runner, it is a dream come true.
Any Soldier interested in joining the Endurance Team or the Marathon team is encouraged to reach out to Chief Davis at (502) 607-3851 or by emailing email@example.com.