By Carrie Adams
On May 1, 2011, almost ten years after the horrifying events of 9/11 left thousands of innocent people dead, President Obama approached the podium and delivered the message that so many had been waiting to hear.
“Justice has been done,” Obama announced. The message confirmed the death of the 9/11 mastermind and Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden at the hands of a highly trained United States Special Operations Task Force. Bin Laden had been found in a heavily fortified compound only an hour’s drive from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city, near a Pakistani military base and the academy for the nation’s army. The brave men from a select Navy SEAL team descended on the compound and combated resistance forces before killing Bin Laden in a firefight.
At her commencement speech at the University of Northern Iowa, Michele Obama described the mission and the character of the men involved. ”Just imagine, a small group of brave men, dropped by helicopter, half a world away in the dead of night into unknown danger inside the lair of the most wanted man in the world. They did not hesitate, risking everything for us, for our freedom and security.”
The military and Spartan Race have always been closely aligned, because the principles and culture of the military are very similar to those of Spartan Race. “We believe, as they do, that successful people and successful Spartans are mentally tough and can withstand, overcome, and commit to a cause that’s bigger than themselves,” said Spartan CEO Joe DeSena.
Recently, Spartan Management was invited to Fort Bragg’s Special Operations Command. While most details of the visit are restricted due to their sensitive nature, Spartan leadership was able to see how groups like the Navy SEALS are trained, and what the United States is doing to keep Americans safe both at home and overseas.
When pressed for details about the visit, DeSena laughed. “It’s not called Special Ops for no reason! This is highly sensitive information and we need to respect that.” One of the most interesting things DeSena discovered, though, was the number of Special Forces out there and the number of countries that we’re inside today.
DeSena explains, “The meat and bones behind Special Forces is embedding into countries and learning the culture and language so that we are always on our front foot and not reacting. We are already there.”
It’s no surprise that our Spartan athletes are often military personnel, both in active duty and veterans, because our approach to training has much in common with that of the military. Recently profiled, Spartan Death Race 2010 Champion Joe Decker was with the 10th Mountain Division. 2011 Winter Death Race finisher and upcoming 2011 Death Race competitor Nate Brown was in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, also recently profiled. Two other upcoming Death Race competitors were recently interviewed by CBS about their mission to raise money for fellow soldiers through the Wounded Warrior Project during their Death Race challenge this June. See video here.
The most critical lesson we learned while spending time with the Special Forces was what the military thinks is the most important human trait. It’s flexibility and a high level of maturity. How does a human being respond to the unexpected and still accomplish the goals of a mission? That is the backbone of the Spartan Race philosophy. As DeSena says, “Anyone can train for an Ironman. What if you got to your bike and there was no seat on it? I want the person who will ride the bike anyway.”
That philosophy is the core of the culture of the Death Race and Spartan Race. “It was eye-opening and encouraging that we are looking for the same things in our Spartan athletes that the military is looking for in their most highly trained Special Operations Forces,” says DeSena.
We’re proud of our military Spartans and we’ll be profiling some of you in upcoming posts. If you are military, veteran or active that has a story to share or is competing in an upcoming race email: firstname.lastname@example.org. And stay tuned for next week’s profile of Nick Nakamura, a member of the military who broke his ankle in our SoCal Super Spartan this year! That’s Spartan Special Ops Spirit. Do you have it?