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March 23, 2001
10th Group Wins Inaugural Water Infiltration Competition
Story and Photos by
Master Sgt Jim Culligan 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group

Recently a four-man team from 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) earned the title of champions in the first ever Special Forces Waterborne Infiltration Competition held in Key West, Fla. The competition was designed to test the waterborne infiltration skills used in the Special Operations units. Sgt. 1st Class Rolf Jensen, Sgt. 1st Class Bill Hoopes, Master Sgt. Jim Culligan and Capt Brian Petit completed the five-event course in nine hours and seven minutes.

Nine teams from four Special Forces Groups competed in the event, with the fastest overall time determining the winner. The competition consisted of six events: nighttime static-line airborne jump into the ocean, 1,500 meter surface swim, 15 nautical-mile kayak navigation course, 20 nautical-mile Zodiac Rubber Raiding Craft navigation course, 10-mile ruck-run and an obstacle course. Time started when the team exited the aircraft and the stopped when the four-man team completed the obstacle course.

“We planned our strategy and executed our plan”, said team captain Hoopes. Hoopes started the team off with a perfect “spot” as the C-130 lumbered over the dark, oceanic drop zone and the four-man team waddled off the ramp with swim fins already strapped to their feet. The team splashed into “Shark Drop Zone”, discarded their parachute equipment and had to locate each other in the water before beginning the mile surface swim to shore. The next leg of the competition was the kayak navigation course. Teams were required to plot their points and map a route taking into consideration wind, tides and obstacles, such as shallow reefs. All teams were equipped with two, two-man Klepper kayaks. The Klepper kayak has been historically used for military application by many Nordic countries and was adopted by the Special Forces units because it is light, silent, low-profile, easy to hide and it can carry hundreds of pounds of equipment. Jensen powered the 3rd Battalion team in this event and built a lead that the team would never relinquish.

Following the kayak, teams were required to transload their combat gear into a Zodiac Rubber Raiding Craft and plot another route to five navigation points in and around the “cayes” or small islands of Key West. This event tested the ability of teams to navigate to pinpoint locations in the dark of night with minimal navigation aids. “There are no terrain features out here. You must rely on your compass, your map and channel markers.”, remarked Staff Sgt. Shane Hagerman, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 10th SFG (A) team.

Teams then transitioned to the ground phase of the operation: the 10-mile ruck-run. This event tested the team’s ability to continue on land after seven to ten hours on the water. Loaded with 70-plus pounds of gear, the teams pounded down the streets of Key West in the early morning hours. Jensen and Petit (both former Best Ranger Competition contestants) pushed the 3rd Bn. team to stay on the winning pace. The camaraderie of the Special Forces teams was evident as competitors hooted and hollered for each other as they passed by in the out-and-back course. The final event was the obstacle course. Cargo nets, barbed wire, high walls and rope climbs proved a great challenge after the night’s air, sea and land events. Veteran combat diver and Command Sergeant Major of 2nd Battalion, 10th SFG(A), Vic Allen, grunted through the obstacle course and crossed the finish line with his three team members. Fellow soldiers cheered the team who finished seventh overall.

After a few hours sleep, the competitors gathered for a barbecue and awards ceremony. Major General William Boykin, commanding general of US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School presented trophies and coins to the competitors. The three 10th Group teams soaked up the warm Key West sunshine before returning to the snowy Mountain Post.

Next task for these Special Forces soldiers:
Winter Warfare Training in the Colorado Rockies.

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