Tough enough?

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Laura L. Valentine
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Wondering how to spend a weekend? Try charging down a steep slope, Braveheart style; plunging into frigid, colored water for a dip in the "Chernobyl Jacuzzi;" navigating through dark, smoke-filled tunnels and then hurling oneself over "Everest," a giant skateboard ramp minus the skateboard. All while at an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet.

For Airmen 1st Class Devon Thomas and Shawn Tuckett, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs, and 9,000 other participants at the June 25 to 26, 2011 Tough Mudder at Beaver Creek, Colo., that seemed like the best approach to an adventurous weekend.

"It looked like it'd be a blast," said Airman Thomas. "I haven't done anything challenging like that before."

Tough Mudder, first introduced to the world in 2010, was designed by British Special Forces as a personal challenge, not a race. With the intended goal being to simply finish the course, participants are not timed during the event.

The Tough Mudder series was started because there is no event in America that tests toughness, fitness, strength, stamina and mental grit all in one place and all in one day, according to the official Tough Mudder website.

Seconds before the starting gun, the pledge of a Tough Mudder is recited by all and includes the ideals of teamwork and camaraderie, not whining, helping fellow "mudders" and overcoming all fears.

"You could see the camaraderie in other people during the race, trying to help others finish," said Airman Thomas. "Everybody wanted to see everyone else succeed."

That philosophy of teamwork was apparent throughout the entire race, as both Airmen helped other participants up and over obstacles, and helping hands were then offered up to them.

When Airman Thomas' leg was caught in a cargo net, leaving him awkwardly stuck, a shove from a stranger below got him through.

"I liked that while in the race, the fact that it wasn't a timed challenge, the goal was to work as a team with those around you," said Airman Tuckett. "It made you open your eyes and not just focus on yourself."

The Tough Mudder series raises money for The Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that helps American servicemembers who have been severely injured. Nineteen percent of the 9,000 participants at Beaver Creek were affiliated with the military, several of which were wounded warriors.

Mudders and spectators have raised more than $1,238,000 for The Wounded Warrior Project.

"It was a perk to participating, because it supported that cause," said Airman Tuckett.

For the seven-man team from Fort Carson, Colo., participating in the Tough Mudder served two purposes. Returning only a few days before the event from a year-long deployment, the men of 1st Battalion, 66 Armor Regiment, Bravo Company, 1st Platoon, saw the challenge as a crazy homecoming. It also served a heartfelt tribute. Four members of the team were Purple Heart recipients.

"We've sent almost 20 guys to the WWP," said a team member. "A lot of our friends have lost arms and legs."

After completing the grueling event, both Airmen are eager to sign up for another event in the near future.

"I can't wait to do another one," said Airman Thomas eagerly.

After the miles had been run, water swam, logs hauled, monkey bars traversed and "electroshock therapy" administered as the last challenge, Airmen Thomas and Tuckett were rewarded simply. Given a bright orange elastic head-band and a t-shirt, they earned the right to call themselves tough.