Troy Perkins left national team camp for four days last week to participate in a team building exercise with Valerenga in Norway. Valerenga's hosts for the 'retreat' - a unit of the Norwegian Special Forces. Here is Part 1 of Troy's experience.
Freezing water, well below freezing temperatures, little sleep, and even less food. Sounds like details an experienced war veteran should be using to start a story with. However, these are just a few of the things that I had to go through this last week during my club's “team building exercises.”
On Sunday, the 11th of January, I had to exit training with the U.S. team early so as I could make my early afternoon flight which took me back to Oslo, Norway. The next afternoon I arrived at home around 6 p.m. and spent a nice evening with my seven-month pregnant wife and woke early the following morning to arrive at the training grounds by 8a.m. The team all met in the changing room and were briefed by the elite of the elite of the Norwegian Special Forces. At this point I was really questioning why I had to endure the 13 hours of flying from the previous day just to get back for this two and a half days of what was described to me as a bonding experience wrapped together with some of the most strenuous exercises I would ever experience.
Our team arrives at a fort that was built in 1915 just after the several wars which were fought between Norway and Sweden. The fortress itself was built into the side of mountain and was nothing but rock and stone. Here we were broken down into three teams and assigned our military clothing and gear. After changing, we were given our first assignment of putting our tent together. These tents, mind you, were two inch steel poles, heavy canvas, cast iron stoves, fifteen deer skin hides, and a 12’x12’ pad for the base. So all three teams assembled their tents and were immediately forced into a van and ushered to a gravel/sand pit about four miles away.
Teams were separated and tied up into straight lines with ropes connecting everyone's wrists -both right and left - to the person in front or behind. Were showed the path around the woods and through the gravel/sand pit, which involved running up mounds of gravel and along the side of a 300 foot sand cliff. We were told to do five laps, and each lap was one kilometer. There were questions we were asked after each lap, and if you were wrong than you were told to run a penalty lap which was another 200 meters. So after a few really mixed up answers and three penalty laps, our team figured out that what each person was either told or what they had seen on the paper they were showed all went together to solve the questions we were given, so needless to say my team won the first challenge. What a great feeling to win something like this. (Yes, everything we did was a race against the other two teams, and there were rewards for winning, whether it be food, sleep, or water).
Thinking that we would just be doing running and exercises like that, I was feeling pretty good about myself until we ran up the road from the pit to another pit where a nine foot wood log was awaiting us, along with two 10 gallon water jugs. Each team was told they had to carry the log and water 2.5 km one way and 2.5km back. Now, part of our gear we were assigned was an old military style stretcher with big wooden handles and metal arm extenders in the middle.
My team gathers and we were really feeling good that we could win this race as well, so we pick the log up on three of the guys shoulders and the other four carried the water on the stretcher and started off at a fast jog pace, which soon became a fast walk. When we came to the first ravine we had to navigate it quickly, which became just placing one foot in front of the other. Very quickly we realized that we could only go as fast as the slowest guy, and this was not the easiest thing to deal with considering we still had to carry our own packs on our backs. So after mounting four hills, we were back on the straight road and really trying to motivate the guys around us and just finish strong. We came in second and were awarded a loaf of bread for our team for dinner. The winning team earned a small bowl of beef stew per member of their team, and the last placed team earned nothing. But being a team, we all shared our food with each other and rested by the fire for the next hour as the night freeze set in around us and the last glimpse of the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, carrying with it any hope of rest and subduing the hunger that was mounting in all of our bellies.
So now we are in some dry clothes and ready to go home or run away - which ever would have put us in our beds and in front of a plate of food - but like true soldiers we marched on to the next three tasks:
-Walking through a freezing river in only your underwear
-Cleaning a Salmon, starting a fire, boiling water, cooking and eating the salmon
-Being blindfolded, led up a ladder and then repelling down the side of gravel silo.
The losing teams of these three tasks had to march the 3 km back to camp and at this point it was already 1 a.m. So once we arrived back at camp - yes, I had to walk - we had 10 minutes to shower and be in our tents. Through the night we rotated responsibility of keeping the fire going, and let’s just say the fire did not help to fend off the cold.