F3 Nation Honors Veterans with WW2-Themed GrowRuck Training Event
This story was written by Matt “Ralph” Crossman, a freelance magazine writer and member of F3 Nation. Subscribe to his newsletter at https://mattcrossman.substack.com/.
CAROLINA BEACH, NC—As Marine Lance Corporal John West and two Marine buddies drove home from the Marine Ball—a celebration of that service’s 248th birthday—on Veterans Day night, they saw a strange sight in Mike Chapell Park, a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. They slowed down to make sure they weren’t seeing things. Why were red lights bouncing around in the dark?
It looked, West said, like a bunch of cars doing donuts. Which only prompted more questions. This called for an investigation.
West and his buddies parked their car, walked into the park in dress blues, and found not cars doing donuts but 77 men of F3 Nation completing the Welcome Party of GTE-44: The Eleventh Hour. (GTE stands for GrowRuck Training Event.)
At first West asked if he could walk close to the men so he could listen to the instruction from the cadre. After learning this was a celebration of Veterans Day and a way for the men to pay tribute to veterans, in particular US Marines who fought in the Pacific theater in World War II, West asked for permission from Danny “Linus” Stokes, an Army veteran, former Green Beret and Director of F3’s GrowRuck program, to address the men.
Linus happily obliged that request.
Jim “Major Payne” Gregory, a combat veteran and former Green Beret who conceived the narrative structure of The Eleventh Hour and led it as Cadre, assembled the participants in a half circle so West could face them. West seemed flabbergasted
that civilians would gather for a 15-hour ruck-based workout in a cold rain, and he wanted to express his appreciation and admiration.
“It’s Veterans Day weekend, and you’re out here doing this,” West said. “I just wanted to say thank you. All y’all could be home sleeping. But you’re out here doing this. I’m really extremely grateful for that. I hope whatever comes toward you, you push through it like great men.”
The irony is The Eleventh Hour was designed as a way for F3 men to say thank you to the great men and women of the military who pushed through whatever came toward them.
‘War is hell. War is confusing. War is chaotic’
F3 was co-founded by Tim “OBT" Whitmire and David “Dredd” Redding, an Army veteran and former Green Beret. Much of F3’s structure—bootcamp workouts, unique nomenclature and devotion to re-creatable culture in regions spread across the world—stems from Redding’s experience in the Army.
Every year on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and other perhaps random days, F3 Nation men pay tribute to our veterans through Hero WOD workouts and other celebrations. Such events draw all three Fs—fitness, fellowship and faith—together.
“The third F component basically just asks you to believe in something bigger than yourself, to understand that you’re not the center of the universe,” said F3 Nant'an John “Slaughter” Lambert, who served as Cadre for one of The Eleventh Hour’s three
“There’s something bigger out there than just you. The American military is the ultimate example of that. There are men and women throughout our history who chose to pay the ultimate sacrifice, to do the ultimate thing, and say I’m willing to abandon my friends and family and die to defend this country and the people I love. That’s a lot of what F3 stands for.”
When Wilmington, NC’s Cape Fear region learned it would host a GTE on Veterans Day this year, the host Q, Eric “Steak Knives” Flynn, and his team quickly decided they wanted to build the event around Wilmington’s unique military history.
There are multiple military bases in the surrounding area, and Battleship North Carolina, which is “docked” in downtown Wilmington, has been converted into a World War II Museum honoring the 11,000-plus North Carolinians who died in military service.
Steak Knives, whose dad, brother and two grandfathers served in the military, talked with Major Payne, who converted the region’s desire to honor the military into what became GTE 44: The Eleventh Hour, the title being a reference to World War I ending on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
By an eerie coincidence, The Eleventh Hour featured 11 participants who are veterans—seven Army, one Marine, and three Navy.
Payne crafted the event to tell the story of a battle in the Pacific theater involving the Battleship North Carolina. Ruck plates stood in for ammunition. Sandbags were gunpowder. Telephone poles became Howitzer tubes that had to be carried and then buried in the beach at an angle to support Allied landings in the Solomon Islands. And a parking lot littered with rucks became a minefield through which each platoon had to guide their blindfolded leader using only verbal commands.
Near the end of the event, real life replaced metaphor, as men completed a Hero WOD led by Brooks “Atomic Wedgie” Sharrett, whose brother, US Army Private First Class David H. Sharrett II, died January 16, 2008 of wounds sustained by
Private First Class Danny L. Kimme, 27, of Fisher, IL.; and Corporal John P. Sigsbee, 21, of Waterville, NY also died in the same battle. All were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell,
“It’s a heavy topic,” Major Payne said. “It’s not all about rah-rah, flag waving. War is hell. Good people get killed by good people. War is confusing. War is chaotic. These things happen, and we have to deal with them in life.”
‘You’re training for each other’
Every GTE includes a “Kingbuilder” workout the morning before the Crucible Ruck, a 15-hour overnight hike. In this case, the Kingbuilder was held on the deck of the Battleship North Carolina. The beatdown opened with a trumpeter playing the national anthem and closed with a somber repetition of Taps.
In between the opening of Kingbuilder and the closing of The Eleventh Hour 25 hours later, a series of emotionally, physically and mentally challenging workouts showcased why F3 pays tribute to veterans and also demonstrated what veterans get out of F3.
The red lights in Mike Chapell Park attracted West. In the same way, The Eleventh Hour (and other GTEs) could attract veterans to F3. “It’s important because it’s a great opportunity to introduce vets to F3,” said Councial “Akron” Glenn, an Army veteran who served as Cadre for one of the platoons in The Eleventh Hour.
“A lot of those guys may battle or struggle with PTSD or other issues like Sad-Clown Syndrome. We believe we have the Daily Red Pill to solve that. Although our mission isn’t specifically directed at veterans, it fits perfectly with the heart of the issue they’re facing when they come back to a country that doesn’t always take care of them like it should.”
Tim “Bloodhound” Carr, an Army veteran and former Green Beret who helped with The Eleventh Hour, said F3 recreates some of what he loved about being in the Army. “Coming out of the military, you miss that bonding, that shared suffering.”
He said this while bear-crawling up a ramp onto the North Carolina and doing calisthenics under one of its 16-inch cannons. “You’re training for each other. It’s got a lot of parallels to it.”
Drew “Power Clean” Ishmael, an Army veteran and Army historian who served as a Trainer for The Eleventh Hour, echoed Akron’s and Bloodhound’s comments. “I need veterans to recognize that this is the closest thing you’re going to get fellowship-wise to what you had in the Army, and you’re doing it with civilians. What we have in F3 is a life in service, which is what most good veterans went in for anyway, to serve.”
Finding meaning in suffering
West’s encouragement to the men to get through “whatever comes toward you” proved prophetic. The conditions were among the worst of any GTE in the program’s 44-event history. Driving rain pelted the men all night. Frigid wind whipping off the Atlantic Ocean tore through them, especially as they performed squats in the ocean and dug holes in the beach for the Howitzers.
During a long ruck along the ocean, ice crystals formed on some men’s gear. They shivered as their bodies dealt with the cold, exhaustion and on-going exertion. They huddled together to find warmth. As miserable as they were, that shared suffering proved valuable in both the short and long term, said Navy veteran Jeff “Flight Nurse” Marsh, whose grandfather, father and son are also Navy vets.
He came to this conclusion only “upon reflection;” it simply sucked as it was happening. He said the rain made the sand easier to walk on. The fact the wind came from the north was a small blessing because it hit them in the back, where their ruck absorbed some of it. If it had hit them in the front, it would have been far worse. And as brutal as the weather was, it created bonds that would have been impossible otherwise. “There’s no way you’re going to have that intimacy without the rain,” Flight Nurse said.
The misery was fitting, because as important as it is to pay tribute to veterans, it’s also important to note, as Major Payne says, that war is hell. An event celebrating veterans that didn’t also highlight the challenges of serving would be
Of course, the suffering in GTE is only a shadow of the suffering of a life of military service. But in both cases, suffering with no growth would be meaningless. GTE puts men through arduous challenges, and all along, the men are encouraged to think about why they volunteer to go through such challenges, what they might get out of doing so and what they might give to their family, friends and community out of the growth that results.
“I like seeing guys earn what we fought for,” Major Payne said, a comment several other veterans offered unprompted. “We fought for our country. But we also fight for the man standing next to us.”
November 11, 2023
Veterans Day Kingbuilder at the USS North Carolina Battleship - 218 PAX from over 30 F3 Regions.
PAX: Beetlejuice, Quaalude, Sparky, Milton, niles, Animal House, Under Siege, DadBod, Pledge, Beauty, Wapner, Pixel Pusher, Teach, Vogue, Buddy the Elf, Animal House, Jingle, Steak Knives, Atomic Wedgy, Chop Shop, 10 count, Hammer Head, Dad Joke, Munster, It Wasnt Me, Roadie, Captain Jack, Nomad, Blue Steel, Dogwood, UNO, Gravity, Phanatic, Tripwire, Bedlam, Kramer, Wipeout, McFly, Pony Express, Flight Nurse, R-X, Hushpuppy, blood donor, Jiffy Pop (JP), Heisenberg, Wicked, Snooki, R2, Tracker, Busted Grill, FIZZ, Jonas, Dixie Chick, Southie, mr.kotter, Hold It, Wild Wing, MalcolmInTheMiddle, Gump
FNGs: Six-Count, Showboat, Hooker, Hooker’s Dad, Oliver Holmes (F3 Name), Monsanto
Other PAX: Qs: Power Clean, Uno, Bono + 150 DR
All Hands on Deck
Kingbuilder Workout at the USS North Carolina Battleship to kick of GTE (GrowRuck Training Event) #44 “The 11th Hour”
Jingle & Bedlam did EMOM (of course!)
Circle up for Mission and Disclaimer by Power Clean (F3 JeffCo)
Warmup mosey around the Battleship walk.
- Burpees OYO
- SSH In Cadence
- Burpees OYO
- SSH In Cadence
- Squats In Cadence
- Merkins In Cadence
- Prisoner Squats in Cadence
- SSH in Cadence
- Imperial Walkers In Cadence
- Burpees - 6-count
Uno took over
- Smurf Jacks in cadence
- Burpees - 6-count
- Merkins - in cadence
- Prisoner Squats - in cadence
- Smurf Jacks in cadence led by
- Mosey to battleship
- Lunge Walk to entrance
- Bear Crawl up the bridge
Bono leading on the Bow
- Squats in cadence
- Balance poses in high plank - alternating hand/leg raises
- 6-count Burpees led by FNG (later named 6-count)
- Ball of Man on the Stern to close
Name-o-Rama captured by Bono upon exit
Thank you to Gravity for obtaining the permit for the privilege to workout on the battleship on this memorial Veteran’s Day.
Thank you to the F3 Nation Trainers for leading 218 PAX