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Fit To Fight: Topeka Tough Mudder
by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marnie Jacobowitz - January 4, 2014

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TOPEKA, Kan. - Army Reserve soldiers band together at the starting line of the 2013 Topeka Tough Mudder to take on and conquer the hard core 12-mile obstacle course held here at Heartland Park in September.

Tough Mudder, designed by British Special Forces, is considered to be the premier adventure challenge in the world that test one's all around strength, stamina, and mental grit while fostering a high degree of camaraderie.

The idea for the 346th Military Police Company from Wichita, Kan. to compete in the Tough Mudder was formed during the unit's deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

“It was something I talked about to my teammates while we were overseas,” said Sgt. Kurtis Cheatham, a military policeman with the 346th MP Company. “This would be something for us to accomplish when we came back home.”

Cheatham, a Blue Springs, Mo., native explained that this competition challenges their bodies and strengthens their bond. Soldiers understand the importance of perseverance of overcoming physical and mental obstacles by not quitting, and Tough Mudder participants experience this challenge.

More than 8,000 participants take part in one of the world's best obstacle courses, said Nick Bodkins, a general manager for Tough Mudder from Brooklyn, N.Y.

“For a lot of people ... Tough Mudder is a way to get back in shape, get fit and for people to push themselves,” said Bodkins, a native of Pensacola, Fla.

Tough Mudder participants plunged into icy waters, scaled slippery slopes, maneuvered through muddy terrain, and endured electrical shocks while competing in the obstacle course which lasted more than three hours.

Army Reserve soldiers understand the importance maintaining their physical fitness on and off duty.

Fellow Tough Mudder teammate Sgt. Joshua Blaesi, a military policeman assigned to the 346th MP Company, couldn't agree more.

U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Blaesi, a military policeman assigned to the 346th Military Police Company in Wichita, Kan., and fellow soldiers tackle an obstacle during the 2013 Tough Mudder in Topeka, Kan. on Sept. 21. Tough Mudder is a series of hard core 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test one’s mental and physical fortitude. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marnie Jacobowitz)
U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Blaesi, a military policeman assigned to the 346th Military Police Company in Wichita, Kan., and fellow soldiers tackle an obstacle during the 2013 Tough Mudder in Topeka, Kan. on Sept. 21. Tough Mudder is a series of hard core 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test one's mental and physical fortitude. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marnie Jacobowitz)

“Your physical fitness while you're deployed is huge,” said Blaesi, who followed in his father and grandfather's footsteps when he joined the military. He explained while on MP patrol it is important for a soldier to know that their battle buddies can count on them.

“The Army Reserve gave me a love for physical fitness ... the ability to push myself and become a stronger, better individual both mentally and physically,” said Blaesi, a native of North Platt, Neb.

Blaesi said that he had a lot of respect for his fellow soldiers and the civilians who participated in the Tough Mudder.

“It took a lot of personal courage to come out here and push yourself through this event,” stressed Blaesi. “The military has given me that mental strength to be able to look at a situation and to drive through and not give up.”

This ‘Band of Brothers' were not the only soldiers on ground at the Topeka Tough Mudder.

Sgt. Severeno Woods, a radiologist technician with the 4204th United States Army Hospital in Topeka, Kan., provided moral support to participants as part of recruiting efforts for the U.S. Army and Army Reserve.

Woods, a native of Lawrence, Kan., trains in mix martial arts and is scheduled to compete in the Shammorks Fighting Championship at the Harris Casino Voodoo Lounge in St Louis, Mo., in November.

“There is a lot required of us physically [in the Army Reserve], so we must be fit to fight,” said Woods.

Army Reserve soldiers look for new challenges that are creative and innovative to stay fit for themselves and their country.

According to Lt. Col. Michele R. Sutak, the public affairs officer for the Army Reserve Medical Command, the Tough Mudder not only test whether soldiers are "Army Strong" - the event provided them an opportunity to see how well the military training and team work combined with their own personal training has prepared them mentally and physically to persevere these obstacles and know that the word "quit" doesn't exist in their vocabulary.

The Army Reserve is proud to be part of the 2013 Tough Mudder and commends the organization for their continued support to the Wounded Warrior Project, added Sutak.

More photos available below

By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marnie Jacobowitz
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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