An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Fitness, teamwork draw Reservist to rucking

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Timm Huffman
  • Headquarters Individual Reservist Readiness and Integration Organization

After running a 5K race each month during his deployment in 2014, and improving his time by 10 minutes, Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Robert Hattan was looking for a way to stay fit when he came home.

That’s when he heard about a new challenge called GORUCK, an events series that focus on the physical and social aspects of rucking, i.e. walking from one place to another with all of your gear.

GORUCK is a movement founded by special-forces veterans that encourages physical fitness, social well-being and citizenship, through the shared experience of rucking and military-history themed events.

Hattan, who is an Individual Mobilization Augmentee engineering technician with the 27th Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, first began participating in these events in August 2015. Since then he has participated in 18 events, including his most recent, the Mogadishu Mile, on Oct. 1.

These events put a rucking, teamwork twist on the popular obstacle-course races and can range in difficulty from lite (under 10 hours), to tough (somewhere around 15 hours), to heavy (more than 20 hours). As the difficulty level increases, so does the amount of weight participants have to carry in their rucksack. Hattan said that for the lite and tough events he has participated in, it is 20 pounds and 30 pounds, respectively.

At his first ruck, Hattan said he didn’t know what to expect and was nervous. What he found was that the effort to overcome the physical requirements was very rewarding, both personally and for the team.

The team dynamic is what the civil engineer said brings him back to these events over and over again. The number of participants can range from ten to more than 60, depending on the event. Regardless of that number, Hattan enjoys the teamwork and the sense of accomplishment he feels after working through the numerous obstacles laid out by the event cadre. Sometimes these obstacles are carrying water-soaked, telephone pole-sized logs, other times sandbags or river rafts. There’s usually a water obstacle. Whatever the challenge, Hattan said a group of strangers must come together, form a cohesive team and solve problems.

“You get a sense of accomplishment that you have done something as a team,” he said.

The most grueling event Hattan has participated in was the Benghazi Tough, in Phoenix, Arizona. The 12-hour event began around eight at night. The July air was scorching as Hattan and his team worked themselves to the point of exhaustion moving sandbags and performing other feats of physical endurance, all while wearing backpacks loaded with a 30-pound weight and three liters of water.

The rucking, along with other racing events, have had the positive impact on fitness Hattan wanted.

“I have lost 10 to 15 pounds over the past year, due to my focus on being physically prepared for GORUCK, Spartan and Tough Mudder events, along with 5Ks,” said Hattan.

When not at a GORUCK event, Hattan is deeply involved with his community in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he works as a federal employee of Veterans Affairs, doing construction management. In his spare time he is also the district manager for the Boy Scouts, participates with the Civil Air Patrol and was named one of his city’s 40 under 40 for 2015.

Likewise, as an IMA, Hattan has made the most of his military career opportunities. Since joining the Individual Reserve, he has taken missions to Greenland, Royal Air Force Lakenheath and Mildenhall, in the United Kingdom, and deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. He has also supported his unit at Cannon AFB on several projects, including surveying the water depth on the golf course to solve flooding issues and working on hangar roofs.

He said he appreciates the guidance a former supervisor gave him when he was trying to decide whether to continue serving in the Air Force Reserve after leaving active duty. In addition to the travel opportunities it has afforded him, he also appreciates the many benefits he has retained, as well as the stability it provided him as he transitioned to civilian life. There was also the element of continuing his family’s military legacy -- His father served in the Navy and his grandfather in the Army.

That appreciation for military heritage is something he also appreciates about GORUCK events. Each event is themed around a piece of military history. He said he enjoys learning about the heritage and said the non-military participants gain a better understanding of what it means to serve.

He believes the combination of teamwork, military history and each person challenging him- or herself, builds better Americans, including himself.

At each GORUCK event, finishers earn a unique, military-style badge. Hattan has collected over 20 of these but wears the same one at every event. He said the patch, which features the Star Wars character Yoda, encompasses his philosophy towards rucking and life. It reads “Do or do not, there is no try.”