MINNEAPOLIS-ST.PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn.—Not to be confused with a routine and leisurely hike, the ruck march is a common military training exercise that involves service members uncomfortably trekking long distances in large groups in extreme environments.
Additionally, stepping off at the beginning of a ruck march routinely starts with a military-issued backpack filled with a cumbersome amount of weight, boots with comfortable insoles and a hydration system.
At the start of this fiscal year, 934th Airlift Wing Airmen and civilians started rucking on and off base completing monthly challenges. What they are doing is participating in a yearlong ruck beta test for Resolute Defender. Created and sponsored by the 934th Security Force Squadron, the scope of this loaded march challenge is for participants to build and solidify, resiliency, camaraderie, and communication. Above all, the ruck marches provide a venue for Airmen and participants to discuss any problems with their fellow Wingmen and friends.
Lt. Col. Charles Trovarello, 934 SFS commander and creator of Resolute Defender, said he had been ruminating on this idea for some time. However, before the official kick-off happens next fiscal year, Trovarello wanted to fine-tune the event and collect data before going final. The beta test is allowing him to see what works and what doesn’t. The intent is to field this to a wider audience. At the conclusion of the challenge, participants who complete the challenge will be awarded a patch.
“I want to send it out to all the security force commanders across Air Force Reserve Command to share with them and everybody. Then we would continue to kick it off here at the base level because obviously, we started it here,” said Trovarello.
Trovarello opened the Resolute Defender ruck march to other wings. Additionally, the event has participation from base tenants to include the Army Reserve and the Marines. 40 Airmen and civilians, comprising 19 different teams, are taking part in the challenge. Currently, the 934 SFS has Airmen rucking in Greenland while they are on long-term temporary duty travel orders.
Master Sgt. Justin Williams, superintendent of readiness and programs for the 445th Security Forces Squadron said they were ready to start rucking as soon as they received the invite. “What we would do is recruit anyone that was here on orders or on some type of status and we would go out and do the ruck march. We would bring them along with us and about halfway we would stop and do a leadership lesson.”
Williams said the designated halfway mark of the march provided them a break to discuss military leadership lessons, lessons learned and concepts of leadership. Furthermore, the ruck marching aided in building comradery with Airmen and a reason to get out of the office and work on physical fitness.
The rules for the Resolute Defender are simple. Once a month participants have to fulfill the designated challenge, ruck with a friend and wear a rucksack. Additionally, there isn’t a weight limit for how much needs to be carried or housed in a ruck during the loaded march. Talking away the weight limit allows the activity to be more palatable for beginners. Moreover, participants don’t have to worry about covering an uncanny amount of miles to complete each monthly challenge.
“There is no overall mileage goal at the end of this. Each month, we are doing this as a way for people to get out there. The reason you are not seeing 10 to 25-mile ruck marches is because I’ve opened this up for partners that are not military members or someone who is not in super good shape,” said Trovarello.
“So, I usual try and carry about 25 to 30 pounds. I don’t try to do anything crazy,” said Master Sgt. Theodore Hemmah, 934 SFS resource advisor and the teams coordinator for Resolute Defender. Hemmah achieves his ideal ruck weight by carrying sand.
So far, the beta test has yielded answers to variables not considered from the start.
“I didn’t consider the amount of people that would really want to do this. I had a lot of people who heard about it after it already started. We factored in there would be some growing pains in that regard. So we allowed people to do some make-up months. We’ve since stopped that and there was a cut-off 6 months ago,” said Trovarello.
The rucking served as a safe alternative when normal methods of physical fitness were on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trovarello said every monthly unit training assembly his defenders conduct PT and the rucking established a safe distance with all participants.
Resolute Defender officially starts on 1 Oct, 2021. If anyone is interested in joining the challenge, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the Resolute Defender Facebook page.