FORT DRUM — From the football field to the battlefield of war, communication and focus matter.
Members of the Syracuse University team were reminded of those points by the post’s soldiers as they completed a series of leadership challenges Wednesday morning.
At the Strike-A-Pose challenge, small player groups had to keep themselves off the ground by using a series of cables, talking to each other as they moved their feet and hands into shared handles on a set of pull-up bars.
Moving toward a teammate’s handle, sophomore tight end Kendall Moore slipped and started to fall. During the fall, he grabbed into a handle, keeping himself inches above the grass. Mr. Moore managed to stay in place for the final 15 seconds of the challenge, as Sgt. 1st Class Melba Staton cheered him on.
“Just keep smiling; you can do it,” she said. “Think about a nice Gatorade at the end.”
Seeing their teammate’s hold, a few players came over to push Mr. Moore in the challenge’s final seconds.
“Where them abs at? Where them abs at?” a teammate teased. Holding the final few seconds of the challenge, Mr. Moore thudded to the grass.
Other stations had players memorizing a collection of military items on a picnic table and recreating it on a neighboring table, helping each other through slim holes in a wire “spider’s web,” or leading blindfolded teammates through a maze using claps or tongue clicks.
Capt. Curtis R. Ballard, of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, who oversaw the activities, said many of the leadership skills relevant in the Army had a place on the football field. Another important element of the training was reminding players that input was needed at all levels.
“The youngest guy may have something to contribute that the veteran might miss,” he said.
At one station, players were tasked with moving an injured dummy, Rescue Randy, about 100 meters while using a plywood board, a tire, a metal rod.
With little time to think, the team of Brandon Reddish, Jacob Green, Taylor Hindy, P.J. Batten, Eric Crume and Kayton Samuels initially misunderstood the event, moving the pieces separately.
“Roll the tire, roll the tire,” Mr. Green said.
Getting to the goal, they were told to run back to the start with all of the parts touching, forcing a readjustment for the return leg.
“It’s a little uncomfortable,” Staff Sgt. Donald P. Hamrick said. “It’s down low. You got to work together.”
Getting through the activities in about 45 minutes, the team lined in formation and marched down Pine Camp Lane for lunch.
For a pair of soldier instructors, Spc. Michael A. Powell and Sgt. Hamrick, Wednesday’s training session brought flashbacks of their own football days.
Spc. Powell was an offensive lineman on the Kansas State University team that lost 36-34 to the Orange in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl in 2010. At least one of the players wore shorts with the bowl’s logo on them, which didn’t escape his notice. Spc. Powell saw similarities in the camaraderie in the Army and in football.
“Teamwork is pretty prevalent in everything,” he said.
Sgt. Hamrick played long snapper and offensive lineman at West Carolina University from 2002-06. His advice for players was to “enjoy everything,” as careers can speed by quickly.
“Then it’s gone,” he said. “Then you’re thinking about the college days.”
Video of Wednesday’s leadership training can be found at http://wdt.me/SU-Drum-Obstacles.