Airman Marches, Low-Crawls And Sweats Her Way Into History
(January 25, 2011)
|BAGHDAD (1/19-21/2011 - AFNS) -- PART THREE|
What are you doing, Judy Benjamin?
Courtney Beard dropped her gear and was convinced she was
1st Sgt. Brian McCutcheon, the United States
Forces - Iraq, A Company first sergeant, and others advised
her not to give up and waste the past 14 hours of her life.
Senior Airman Courtney Beard, 467th Expeditionary Intelligence Squadron intelligence analyst, leads a team through an abandoned palace Nov. 21 on Victory Base Complex, Iraq. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native was the first female Airman to complete the 18-hour Spur Ride, a series of mental and physical tests, held by the III Corps, Task Force Phantom. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kelly K. Morehouse)
||"If she completed this grueling challenge, then she
could use this as a foundation for any points in her life or
career when something appeared to be bigger than the
individual," Sergeant McCutcheon said. "Finishing the Spur
Ride would forever be proof that she could attack any
obstacle head on and be successful."
Sgt. Maj. Timothy P. Livengood, from the III Corps Special
Troops Battalion, even yelled at her, calling her Judy
Benjamin, that she wasn't done and to pick up her gear.
Judy Benjamin is a character from the movie "Private
Benjamin" and one of the many nicknames the Brooklyn, N.Y.,
native was given along the way.
"I picked up all my
gear and put it back on," Airman Beard said. "I wanted to
see if I really had what it took to finish."
journey continued, Airman Beard walked past the Perfume
Palace where she works every day.
"This only made me
dream of where I would be if I hadn't signed up for the Spur
Ride," she said.
Upon arrival at the sniper hill
location on Camp Slayer, Iraq, the participants entered a
scenario with explosions and enemy fire. They had to run
from the beginning to the end of the lane, hitting the
ground for any and all incoming fire. They also had to
evacuate "injured" Soldiers and perform simulated first-aid
once they got to the bottom of the hill.|
Now they had
to get up the hill, but they had to rush to the top doing
"I was extremely exhausted by this point,"
she said. "By the time they said 'I'm down,' I was barely
Airmen Beard said she let go of every
muscle in her body and dropped to the ground to make sure
she was doing it right.
"Unfortunately, I didn't do
it well enough" she said. "We were sent back to the bottom
of the hill to try again."
She made it up this time
but with a little help.
"I was very thankful for my
teammates at this point," Airman Beard said. "One of them
kept a hold of my camel pack and jerked me up the hill each
time we were told to get up."
As they made their way
down the hill, they were sent back up to look for a few
Soldiers who were lost. After the Soldiers were found, they
came back down and encountered a few more physical tests.
"We had to hold our weapons over our head non-stop," she
said. "Then we marched to the fire station and pulled
They eventually made their way back to the
motor pool, where they started the day 17 hours earlier, to
begin the last portion of the Spur Ride. This part was
dedicated to all of the fallen service members in Iraq and
"We were divided into teams and carried
one person each around the motor pool," Airman Beard said.
"We did one lap of every thousand that have fallen since the
beginning of the war."
The Spur Ride concluded with
Sergeant Major Livengood recognizing the efforts of the 27
participants that finished. He also expressed how thankful
he was for their service.
There was food waiting for
them and at this moment Airman Beard felt like one of the
"I felt like a true Soldier," she said. "I just
picked up my food and ate it with my hands without a care in
Airmen Beard heard the song "American
Soldier," and emotions took over the 22 year old.
"After a long day that was full of physical and mental
stress, all I could do was let the tears fall from my eyes."
Relief was the only thing Airman Beard said she could
think about after the 18 hour Spur Ride was over.
with all Spur Rides, those that complete it get recognized
at a dining-in and, like the day before, Airman Beard was
the lone female Airman in a crowd of male Soldiers.
"The dinner was the perfect remedy for what the previous day
was full of," she said. "It was very rewarding, but also
overwhelming to be in crowd that was all Army and all male."
Airman Beard explained that it took weeks for her to
realize what she had accomplished.
"It took a few
people recognizing me and congratulating me on what I did
for me to realize how big a deal it really was," she said.
Airman Beard was asked by the III Corps commander to
cross over into the Army. Another Soldier told her that she
needed to look into the "blue to green" program, which
allows Airmen to transfer to the Army.
"It was after
all of these encouraging words that I realized what I had
accomplished," she said. "Although, I feel that no one will
ever really understand what those 18 hours were really like
unless they were actually there for every minute."
But there was still more. One of the traditions at a
military dining-in calls for spur recipients to drink from
"I spent the whole night dreading this
moment," Airman Beard said. "I decided that just straight
downing it without stopping would be my best bet."
She downed the "grog' and was presented her Spur Ride
certificate by Sergeant McCutcheon. Airman Beard left that
night with her stomach feeling queasy, but with her head
"Completing the Spur Ride means a lot to
me," she said. "I still look back and think about all the
Soldiers that couldn't complete the challenge but, not me, I
Part One |
By USAF SSgt. R. Michael Longoria|
9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force - Iraq Public Affairs
Air Force News
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