Mind over Mudder
To get through mud, fire, ice-water, and 10,000 volts of electricity you’ll need teammates to pick you up when your spirits dip. To get over 12 foot walls and through underground mud tunnels, you’ll need teammates to give you a boost and a push.
- Tough Mudder website
Story by Lt. Col. Kelly Lelito,
Army Reserve Strategic Integration Directorate
Fort Belvoir, Va. – Navigating a gauntlet of more than 20 obstacles across 10 miles of mud-slicked mountain trails may seem somewhat unrelated to the job of building the Army Reserve of the future, but according to Capt. Rob Behrman, a strategist with the Office of the Chief of Army Reserve, the event was just a natural extension of the Strategic Integration Directorate’s team dynamic.
"As strategists and integrators, most of our work is done collaboratively,” said Behrman, “We rely on each other's strengths, and produce the best outputs for the Army Reserve by working together."
Maj. Joshua Darling, a veteran Tough Mudder with SID, recommended the event as a way to build team cohesion and contribute to a good cause.
According to its website, Tough Mudder participants have raised more than $5 million to support the Wounded Warrior Project, which benefits thousands of warriors returning from the battlefield.
Made up of analysts, or “59”s, all of whom have prerequisite masters degrees, Army Reserve strategists spend their days looking at issues and developing strategies related to planning, policy, resourcing, budgeting, congressional testimony and strategic communication – anything that would assist the Chief of the Army Reserve in developing and integrating initiatives.
Not exactly the crew you’d expect to find scaling cargo nets, submerging themselves in freezing ice water, and crawling through electrified wires.
Col. Dale Fair, SID director, shared words of encouragement. “This team is so much more than cerebral staff weenies,” he said. “Sure, you all have the smooth, uncalloused hands of British royalty, and the sickly pallor of shut-ins, but since when has that stopped you from meeting a challenge?”
An aggressive, camaraderie-building campaign leading to the "2013 Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder" included an MWR-sponsored functional fitness training program augmented by additional fitness activities.
“Getting away from the office as a team helps us relieve stress and achieve balance,” said Darling. We spend days strategizing over Army Total Force Policy imperatives and ensuring Army Reserve equities are considered in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review – this helps clear our heads.”
The training and preparation leading to the challenge proved successful, with the team completing the course with no injuries sustained.
“It’s all about teamwork,” said Behrman.
Fair added that the teamwork and collaboration they rely on to achieve success extends across directorates.
“We work across directorates and with our Army Reserve Communications and Legislative Affairs team to support the CAR’s vision,” said Fair. “Products like the 2020 Vision and Strategy document and Rally Point 32 establish the foundations for operational concepts and strategies required to maintain the Army Reserve as an enduring operational force; Rally Point 32 also includes operational guidance and direction to Army Reserve command teams and staff – this requires a very cohesive effort.”
“Functional area 59 attracts officers from a diverse spectrum of experience,” said Behrman, who is himself a PhD candidate in engineering and public policy. “Currently Our SID team includes everything from combat arms to logistics and medical.”
All officers in SID are Army strategists - drawn from a variety of branches and military occupational specialties - designated as “functional area 59.” Army functional areas group officers by technical specialty or skill, which usually requires significant education, training and experience.
SID is looking to recruit future strategists, for the Army Reserve, and for the next challenge.
“We have high standards, but we’re always looking for new talent,” said Fair. “A master’s degree is a prerequisite, but any candidate would also have to have a real passion for collaborating and problem solving… and mud, of course.”