Strolling with 150 Spartans
CAMP HOVEY, South Korea -- Before the sun crept through the clouds, approximately 150 Spartan Soldiers lined up. These Soldiers were garbed in their Army Combat Uniforms. Some Soldiers bore wooden shields, others were without. These warriors were prepared for one of the toughest and most demanding days of their lives. They came prepared to take on their own version of the Hot Gates as they were ready to fight tonight.
A cool breeze stirred the tension of the Soldiers. The sun slowly crept into the sky. At this point, the Spartan Soldiers lost the option of fighting in the shade.
Excitement rose within the Soldiers as they were ready to battle the obstacles set before them. These Soldiers were not gathered for war but for a journey, a transformation.
The 150 Soldiers stood tall--ready to transcend into the Order of the Hoplites; however, only those who successfully completed the Spartan Shield Ride would earn the coveted title of Hoplite and get accepted into the phalanx.
The phalanx is important to the Spartan battalion because of the unique mission of a support battalion. The success of the battalion is dependent upon each element accomplishing their specific missions.
Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team along with their Republic of Korea army counterparts participated in the fourth bi-annual Spartan Shield Ride running from May 21 to 22, 2013. During the event, the Soldiers took-part in the Army physical fitness test while wearing ACUs, a written exam, negotiated the 20 obstacles on the Camp Hovey air assault course, and rucked various lanes throughout the night and into the morning; all spread across Camps Hovey and Casey. The shield ride concluded with a trek up to the chemical training facility for one last test of endurance and courage.
"I can't lie, I under estimated the shield ride," said Pfc. Edmar Mique, a San Jose, Calif. native and combat engineer for Company C, 1st BSTB. "I'm tired, but I'm having fun. I'm out here with my brother and we're going to push each other to the end."
Earning a position in the Order of the Hoplite goes back to the beginning of Spartan history during the Ancient Greek times. The Hoplite warriors were heavily armored Soldiers trained and proficient in combat.
"The Spartan Shield Ride is about building esprit de corps and giving the Soldiers a sense of home and ownership in the battalion," said Command Sgt. Maj. Ted Pearson, a Greenwood, S.C. native and the command sergeant major for the 1st BSTB. "All the units in the 1st Armored Brigade have something traditional that breaks their minds and bodies in order to earn a small token of respect. We wanted something similar, so we looked to the Spartans of old and adapted some of that history to modern times."
The Spartans Shield Ride signifies the bravery and expertise that the Ancient Spartans displayed during the Battle of Thermopylae's at the Hot Gates against the Persian army.
"The shield ride isn't supposed to be a reenactment of the battles that the Ancient Spartans fought," said Pearson. "The shield ride adopts that same won't quit, won't back down attitude. The Spartans were some of the best battle-tested warriors ever. So we take some of our best warriors and test them on their warrior tasks in a strenuous environment."
The Soldiers paired off into 11-man teams who pushed and encouraged each other to go a little further and to endure a little more after each obstacle.
"Once the training went into the night, we all started to slow down," said Sgt. Joseph Hudak, a Crofton, Wash. native and a communication specialist with Company B, 1st BSTB. "But we continued to motivate each other and we all made it through. I'm proud of all my Soldiers. We set out to accomplish a goal and we did it."
As the Soldiers go maneuver through each obstacle, push past injuries, hunger, weary bodies, and withstand the course will receive a belt buckle fashioned in the form of the battalion's coveted shield.
"In the end, you stand on shaky legs and you reach out with that weary hand to grab that shield; knowing it's something that you've truly earned," said Pearson. "This is really what it's all about! You can't get caught up in the routine of doing your business. Give your Soldiers something to get excited about and keep them motivated."
No blood was shed for this honor or human walls constructed during this display of might and tradition. The Soldiers carried their shields to the end with pride and fidelity. As Soldiers crossed into the finishing area, most of the participants lived up to the battalion`s motto, one way or the other; 'With my shield or on it.'