My Favorite GORUCK Mission

An espionage tale from the first GORUCK Triple Heavy

Note: I originally wrote this back in 2017 on my old website. My website is going away, but I didn’t want to lose this story, so I’m reposting it here.

This article presumes you’re already familiar with the GORUCK Challenge. Here’s an article if you need some background information.

A major component of the GORUCK Challenge is its missions, whose purpose is to build the group of individuals who have signed up for the event into a team. The most typical one is getting from Point A to Point B within a time limit. The distance, destination, duration, and the items you carry will differ for each event, but you’re guaranteed to do a variation of this mission multiple times at a Challenge. However, there are times when a mission is offered that deviates from the template. When that happens, it creates an excitement among its participants and provides something special that can’t be replicated at any other event. One such mission occurred during the second Heavy of the first Triple Heavy (a 72-hour team endurance event that occurred in September 2015), and it remains my favorite GORUCK mission ever.

Our team had just a finished a rough 20-mile ruck from Bushwick Crossfit in Brooklyn, NY to Coney Island Beach. We’re about 32 hours into the event and we’ve been pelted with rain and cold winds for the past few hours thanks to Hurricane Joaquin raging in the Atlantic Ocean. Two teammates dropped an hour prior, and the seven remaining team members were wondering what was going to happen to us next. As we were rucking through the beach boardwalk, Cadre Chris “Soul Crusher” Sanchez said something that instantly lifted our spirits.

“Your next mission is to infiltrate the GORUCK Tough class that’s happening later tonight.”

The second Heavy happened to occur in the same time frame as a different GORUCK Tough class, so it provided a rare opportunity for one GORUCK class to interact with another one. We met with the other two cadre leading the Triple Heavy, Glenn “Flash” Wells and Danny Stokes, to get our mission briefing. Our task was to infiltrate the other class and steal as many of their items as possible without being detected. These items included their US flag, their team weight, and even their cadre’s ruck is possible. Neither the class nor the cadre running the Tough event knew we were coming, so it provided an excellent opportunity for our team to sneak into the class. However, the cadre warned that we would suffer horrible consequences if we were caught. Despite the threat, we couldn’t stop grinning for what we were going to do. A jolt of energy coursed through our tired bodies and gave us another wind to execute the mission.

Now normally we would have rucked to the start point of the Tough class since that’s what you typically do during a GORUCK event, but we were a few miles away and it was about to start soon. Our best chance to infiltrate the class would be when it starts, so we took the subway in order to reach our destination in time.

Reviewing our infiltration missing briefing on the train.
Photos credit: Jessica Walkup

We welcomed this change of pace considering that we just rucked 20 miles (let alone the nearly 40 miles we rucked in the first Heavy). During our subway ride, we devised a few plans to steal the other team’s items. We chose Kim and Dave as our infiltrators since they weren’t local to the NYC area, making them most likely to not be recognized by the NYC area GRTs doing the Tough.

We arrived at McCarren Park and set up a camp on the other side of the street from where the start point was. We couldn’t walk around the area with our rucks and gear without arousing suspicion, so we hid them in bushes. It was a huge relief to not carry stuff for a change. My teammate, Doug, and I went to recon the start point.

The start point was next to a baseball field and there was a huge problem–the lights from the field shone on the start point, making it completely bright. We originally planned to use the cover of darkness to sneak into the class and steal their items, but that was now impossible. We had to rely on our infiltrators to steal what they could, but it was going to be tricky since there was no darkness for them to hide. The cadre leading the Tough class never took his ruck off, so stealing that was out of the question. Our best bet was to wait until the Tough class was distracted during the welcome party (boot camp-like smoke session) before stealing their flag.

At this point, Doug and I agreed to hang back and watch everyone’s gear. Chris was selected to pose as a shadow (a silent GORUCK Challenge observer) and steal the flag when possible. We fortunately had two shadows, Sara and Jessica, who knew of our mission and wanted to help us. Here’s what happened from Chris’ perspective.

The only thing left was the flag. Bingo. A shadow had it, but I didn’t know them. I had to devise a plan to grab it and away. I had my lovely assistants retrieve the flag off the shadow. Then, I eagerly asked for some photos while holding the flag.

Photo credit: Jessica Walkup

“This is so cool! Man, I feel so patriotic! ” I said as I started to unroll the flag and pose for some photos. My heart began pounding but I was focused on a plan. One of the shadows wouldn’t leave our presence, and I was at risk of being identified if I possessed it too long.
“Don’t unroll the flag, the cadre might get angry” she protested.
“Oh sorry, I’ve never done one of these before” I responded as I rolled the flag back up. I then requested some photos of me holding the flag.

Photo credit: Jessica Walkup

…At that moment, all the shadows were looking away at the challenge group. Noticing the opportunity I sprinted behind the building and dove over some bushes. Now, I only had to stash it and head out for some more. Suddenly, as I was searching for a good stash location, someone walked straight towards me.

“Are you doing the triple H” he asked.
“Uhh what?”
“Are you in the triple H?”
“Uhh no.. I’m just going to pee.. what’s that?” I quickly shot out,
“Forget it” he said as he began to walk away. “Please don’t mention to anyone I said any of that”
“Uh what are you talking about?”
“Don’t worry about it, forget about it” as he walked away.

Crap! I’ve been discovered! Fearing that the mission may be foiled by my presence, I headed towards my gear instead of heading back to spectate the event for more retrieving. I feared that people may be aware of what’s going on, and someone just discovered me with the flag. I walked towards our gear, and to my surprise, it was all gone. I walked back towards to field to see if anyone was around doing recon. I found Doug and explained the situation. He quickly retrieved the flag he then explained to me that all of our gear was there, but hidden very well. I walked back over there and realized that our gear was hidden behind the bushes very well so well that I didn’t see anything. Either that, or the sleep deprivation blinded me.

Chris got the flag with the help of Sara and Jessica and was able to stash it in a safe place. When Doug went to retrieve the flag, he placed the pole down his pants and covered the flag with his jacket. That’s how he was able to walk away with the flag without being detected.

While this was going on, Flash and Danny were observing the Tough class as shadows. Most of the shadows didn’t recognize them as cadre, so they were able to pose as bystanders and ask silly questions. They were also there to observe our mission to see if we would get caught.

Meanwhile, poor Dave and Kim were enduring a GORUCK Tough welcome party while the flag was being taken. Here’s how it looked from Dave’s perspective.

I was actually a little worried the cadre running the challenge might recognize me as i had him before at a challenge in Detroit a few months ago, but having my face covered most likely helped not get recognized.

The welcome party was short and sweet and included us doing some PT and low crawling through a baseball diamond. The team weight was 2 people beside me i asked if i could take it for a while but the person who had it said they were fine with it. (sadly we never ended up grabbing it)

Photos credit: Joanna June

At the end of the low crawling, this is where the class realized their flag was missing (oooops) and had no idea what happened to it and 2 people were sent to find it. Just then the lights on the baseball diamond we just finished low crawling went out and this made for the perfect get away for us Heavy people . We pretended we were going to look for the flag aswell and vanished into the shadows back to the park across the street where the rest of our team was along with their flag.

The one thing we forgot in our planning was to create a signal to let the infiltrators know when to leave. However, we were extremely lucky when the baseball lights turned off just as the class discovered that their flag was gone. It provided the perfect cover for our spies to sneak away during the flag searching chaos, as the perfectly lit field suddenly became dark.

We reconvened at our base to celebrate our successful mission. Although we only managed to steal their team flag, we did so without getting caught. We gathered our belongings and walked back to the Tough group with the absconded flag. The class was stressing out and the cadre running the Tough wasn’t happy that the flag was missing. Cadre Danny revealed to the Tough class what was going on to smooth things over. The class didn’t even realize that they had two people (Dave and Kim) missing in their group, which further proved that we succeeded in not getting caught.

Cadre Danny Stokes explains to the Tough class what happened while our team looks on with their flag.
Photo credit: Joanna June

After returning the Tough class’ flag, each group wished the other well in their respective events, and we went our separate ways. Our reward was a cadre’s favor that we could use later in the event. We eventually cashed in that favor at around 2:00 am so that we could go inside a Dunkin Donuts and warm ourselves up with donuts and coffee instead of suffering outside in the frigid cold. It pays to be a winner.

And that’s the story of my favorite GORUCK mission ever. It was an awesome infiltration mission where the targets had no idea what was going to happen. We had extremely high stakes with a severe punishment that would have been administered if we were caught (I’m glad we never found out what it was). It was super exciting and definitely made us forget for a bit that we were going through a really hard endurance event. We succeeded in working as a team, which strengthened our bond and maintained a positive attitude within the group that would carry us over for the next couple of hours in the event.

Thanks for reading. You can read what happened before and after this mission in this article.

Endurance Athlete & Video Game Programmer