Strongest Competition (April):

The first in-person Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was the Fort Hood Strongest Competition on April 17.

It challenged participants to a Log Clean, Dead Lift, Atlas Stones and Vehicle pull.

Capt. Richard Rainey, 4th Battalion, 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade, who was one of the two men in the male super heavyweight category, came out to participate with his peers and admitted that pulling the 8,500-pound Ford F-650 was the most challenging for him.

“I didn’t know they made F-650’s,” he said laughing. “It was a difficult pull, but it was a lot of fun to have the team there with me.”

Sgt. 1st Class Latoya Greene, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, pulled the dually, a 5,600-pound truck, in the vehicle pull and pushed herself to make it the full distance. She was motivated by the cheers from the crowd there and the deeper purpose she had for competing that day – honoring the memory of her friend that had passed shortly before the event.

“I knew who I had on my shirt, and that’s the only way I made it,” she said. “It meant a lot for me doing that for her.”

Amazing Ruck

The second annual Amazing Ruck took place, Aug. 14, at the Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area Paintball Course.

Participants had to complete a more than five-mile ruck with five challenges along the way, a paintball target: shoot, one-mile kayak, ropes course, mountain biking and a mystery challenge. The mystery challenge was consuming an “Amazing Sundae,” made of ice cream consistency ground beef liver topped with tofu, rainbow sprinkles and a mint leaf.

Participants who tasted the concoction collectively agreed that it was disgusting. Capt. Dave Rice, 2nd Training Support Battalion, 337th Infantry Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West, looks back on the mystery challenge experience with little joy.

“It was horrible. I’d have actually probably preferred to run the whole course backwards and retracing our steps to ruck twice the distance,” he admitted. “In 26 years of Army life, I’ve never eaten something as disgusting as that beef liver sundae.”

Warrior Way Fitness Center

After a years-long remodeling process the Warrior Way Fitness Center opened its doors on Oct. 18.

The building it was in was previously the Warrior Way Post Exchange. The newly refurbished facility is 36,000 square feet with all new equipment, some that cannot be found at other physical fitness facilities on post, like two stretching machines, tires, and Assault Fitness air runners.

“We are excited to have this state-of-the-art equipment which includes a rig, six lifting platforms, new assault bikes, a 12 multi-jungle system, concept rowers, new bikes, treadmill-like dumbbells, kettlebells, ropes and medicine balls and a host of other new equipment,” Sonia Armstrong, supervising sports specialist, said. “We are here to make sure we focus on all areas of the body and each one focuses different muscle groups.”

Celismarie Rivera, manager of the Warrior Way Fitness Center, describes the facility as two gyms in one.

“We have a full functional gym and then we have a full traditional weightlifting gym,” she said. “Here, they get all of it in one.”

Fishing for Freedom

On Oct. 2 more than 200 boats made their way out onto Belton Lake to participant in the 15th Annual Fishing for Freedom.

Mary Brown, the secretary/treasurer for the Fishing for Freedom committee, said the event was started 15 years ago to build more cohesion between the community, Soldiers and veterans.

“I think, particularly lately, that a lot of the support for the military has fallen off. That was initially why we put the tournament on, to have Soldiers that are active duty and retired here in the community, get to know fishermen in the community, learn about fishing tournaments and make friends,” she explained.

She has seen many friendships develop over the 15 years the tournament has been around.

“We’ve had stories in the past where people that have participated have joined bass clubs and joined churches and become friends with the people they fished with and build rapport with the community,” she said. “That was what our drive behind the whole thing.”

Hunting and Fishing Day

On Sept. 11 the Sportsmen’s Center hosted Hunting and Fishing Day, where participants were invited to bring out their families to fish, shoot some arrows, aim at turkeys, and test out their turkey calling skills.

Judy Johnson, general manager of the Sportsmen’s Center, was happy to see all the outdoor enthusiasts, young and old, having fun.

“They (kids) are the future of the programs’ community and passing down our heritage to new generations (is important),” she said. “These activities provide quality time together as a family and opportunities to teach life lessons like sportsmanship and good stewardship of our planet’s resources.”

Fort Hood deer guide, Wayne Farmer and his daughter Aubrie Farmer (4), made their way to Cantonment Pond B in the early morning hours for the fishing portion of the day.

“I just enjoy watching her, her facial expressions. She loves fishing,” he said.

The duo managed to reel in an almost three-pound catfish. Aubrie, though she was excited and curious about the smaller fish they caught earlier, was hesitant to get near the larger fish.

“We caught that big fish. She didn’t want anything to do with that,” Farmer said laughing.

360 Hoops

360 Hoops, an alternate version of basketball, hosted a kid’s clinic and three-on-three tournament for active-duty Soldiers, Aug. 29, at West Fort Hood Physical Fitness Center.

360 Hoops is a version of basketball where the court is circular and in the middle sits the goal with three hoops. Teams can shoot into any goal from anywhere on the circular court

During the Soldiers tournament, Notre Dame head basketball coach Mike Brey, brother of 360 Hoops inventor Shane Brey, visited to watch and say a few words.

“My main message is how much I’m inspired,” he said about talking to the participants. “Being on this base, being around the teamwork, the togetherness, the mental and physical toughness, (and) the leadership I was able to spend some time with, it was amazingly inspiring. I want to make sure that I thank them for all they do for our country and that we haven’t forgotten. It’s a hard job; it’s a tough job.”

Team Burba Elite: consisting of Cpl. Brycedon Tobie, 3rd Cavalry Regiment; Pvt. Cameron Foushe, 20th Engineer Brigade, Spc. George Wilson, 36th Engineer Brigade; and Pfc. Nisher Marks, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, were the winners of the tournament. They received individual trophies and $360 gift cards.

Marks felt it was important for Soldiers to participate in events like this because it brings them together and lets them develop teamwork in a non-work environment.

“I feel like it just brings people together. We see each other on a daily basis, we do different types of things, so for us to do these types of activities, it makes our chemistry that much better,” he said. “I just think it’s really important for us to do stuff like this.”

Robotics Clinic

The Fort Hood Child and Youth Services hosted a robotics clinic for Fort Hood youth March 15-17 at Bronco Youth Center during their spring break event Ultimate Breakout.

The kids were introduced to the MTRS II (Man Transportable Robot System Increment II) a tool that allows explosive ordnance disposal technicians a remote way to deal with explosive hazards.

Staff Sgt. Erin Dobbins and Spc. James Kennedy from 752nd Ordnance Company brought the MTRS and taught the kids how to control them.

Dobbins has worked with Army robots for six years and was excited to share her knowledge with Fort Hood youth.

“I always like watching how excited they (the kids) get when they finally get comfortable enough with the controls to really have fun with it,” she said. “That visible excitement when the robot does exactly what they told it to do. For us it’s just part of the job, so it’s a nice reminder that it’s a pretty cool piece of technology. Plus, it’s hard not to smile when the kids are.”

Project Hero: Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge

On April 15, 40 bikers participating in the Project Hero: Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge made a pit stop at Fort Hood on their way from Austin to Arlington where they danced with Soldiers and shared the importance of caring for your mental health.

“What we’ve found with what our chapters do, and the program does, we have an 80% reduction in PTSD triggers through our riders, and a 63% reduction or elimination of medication,” Todd Setter, chief operations officer for Project Hero, said.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Aubrey Gaines participated in the ride for the first time in 2019 and was excited to participate again because he has found biking to be very freeing.

“A lot of the afflictions that we carry home from Iraq, Afghanistan or any other austere environments, when we get on that bike, especially with our comrades, it’s just freeing,” he said. “You get that space and a lot of times you start coping with things while you’re out there on the road and then when we stop, you’re not alone. We all understand what the others (are) going through.”