The word “crucible” can be defined as a situation of severe trial, in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new. It’s an apt description for what leaders – enlisted and officer alike – experienced at Fort Leonard Wood Aug. 27 as the 3rd Chemical Brigade conducted its annual camaraderie and leadership certification event.
Beginning at just before 6 a.m., the Crucible featured 100 commanders, platoon leaders, first sergeants and drill sergeants from across the brigade who were divided into eight teams and presented with eight challenges.
According to 1st Lt. Brett Hughett, an assistant operations officer for the brigade and one of this year’s event organizers, each station – spaced out from the middle of the Fort Leonard Wood cantonment area to the lake at training area 250, on the eastern edge of the installation – required knowledge and skills Soldiers here are trained on every day. The participants ruck marched a total of about 10 miles to get to the different stations.
“A lot of stuff is graded off of the (Expert Soldier Badge) standards,” he said. “We’re using that as the standard for most of the skills. It’s stuff the trainees here go through. The thinking is, ‘How can you expect to certify the Soldiers coming through if you can’t do it yourself?’”
Hughett said the stations this year ranged from hand grenade and M-4 skills to a new final event: a 125-yard swim challenge.
“There’s a couple of new events,” he said. “The swim’s a new one, hand grenades is new. We took out the (night-infiltration course) from last time. It keeps it new. There’s a lot of people who’ve done it before.”
For Col. Adam Hilburgh, 3rd Chemical Brigade commander, ensuring the leaders under him know their stuff is just one reason to do this every year.
“They’re on different teams, from different platoons and companies, so they get to build relationships with the folks they haven’t before,” he said. “There’s all different ranks, so they get a chance – not just to know each other – but to learn from each other. Plus, it gives them confidence that they can do some of these tasks that they may not have done for years.”
Besides swimming and hand grenades, another change this year is with the scoring.
“Last year it was all team scoring,” Hughett said. “This year it’s individual scoring and then the team gets the average of the individual scores.”
Tied for first place this year for the individual win were Company A, 84th Chemical Battalion 1st Sgt. Jody Mease from Team Eight and Maj. Brent Robertson, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment executive officer, from Team Six. They each scored 880 out of 900 possible points. Team Four was the overall winning team – consisting of Lt. Col. Richard Dunning, Maj. Tyler Schoellhorn, Capts. Zeke Dodd, Maria Kienle and Andrew Lindsay, 1st Lt. Lawrence Jerichow, 1st Sgt. Kevin Armstrong, 1st Sgt. Mariah Duncan, Staff Sgt. James Lynch, and Sgt. Joseph Martinez – with an average individual score of 823 points.
Robertson said he credits one of his battalion’s drill sergeants – Sgt. 1st Class Marc Carman – and the hours spent in his “Crucible class” for helping with preparations for the competition.
“Drill Sergeant Carman did an excellent job at ensuring the battalion leadership was ready to execute,” Robertson said. “My knowledge was limited on a lot of the events, so having him instruct us on proper techniques and information benefitted us all.”
Mease said in addition to battalion-level review sessions leading up to the event, she had a little extra help with her preparations.
“My five-year-old daughter was gracious enough to lend some of her toys so I could practice evaluating a casualty,” she said. “Winning matters – for me, though, it’s more than coming in first place. It’s showing my Soldiers that putting in the extra work does pay off.”
Robertson said he enjoys being part of an organization “that prides itself on doing the little things right.”
“I learned a lot from the officers and senior noncommissioned officers I was with,” he said.