Confessions of a Grey Man – GORUCK Tough Class #2157 AAR

This After Action Review (AAR) is for the December 9, 2016, GORUCK Tough in Richmond VA with Cadre Garrett.

General Info


For my clothes, I basically followed my “What to Wear for a GORUCK Event” post.

Sustain: Pretty much everything. This was a perfect setup for a cold night.
Improve: Nothing.


I basically followed my “What to Pack for a GORUCK event” post.

Sustain: Keep the ID & cash easily accessible for admin, then put in the dry bag.
Improve: Don’t forget to eat the jerky, or at least offer it to your team. Consider bringing bacon next time.


I didn’t plan to do this event. I didn’t even really want to do it.

I had recently finished my first GORUCK Heavy and wanted a bit of a break after all the training I had put in for that event. Then GORUCK posted about some 50% off event sale. I looked at the Richmond event page and between the early bird price and the discount, it ended up being like $35. I signed up simply because it was so cheap and in my backyard.


So, even months before the event, my head was not in it. I rationalized that I’d get my head right once the event got closer. That did not happen.

As I was getting dressed for the event, my head was not in it at all. I just looked at my wife and said, “I have no idea why I’m doing this. I don’t even really want to go.”

I headed off, telling myself to get my crap together because it isn’t about me at this point. My crappy mindset will impact the team and if that happens… well, that’s just full out lame.

Sustain: Signing up and showing up.
Improve: Uh, your freakin’ attitude dillhole. Don’t wait till event day to get your head right.

Let’s get this party started

By start time I was in a little better place. But, obviously, not a good enough place as my rucking buddy, Clay, looked at me several times during the welcome party and said, “You all right, man? You’re not yourself.”

He was right.

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Despite my best effort, I just went through the welcome party motions, all the time thinking, “what the heck am I doing here?”.

Now, that’s not to say I didn’t put out or help my team. In fact, that was the best way I could think to fight the battle in my head. So I did all I could to help. But, my head still wasn’t right.

Sustain: No matter what’s going on in your head, make sure your actions put the team above self.
Improve: Dude, your PT kinda sucks. Do you even do push-ups bro? Stop talking about improving your PT and put together a freakin plan already.

Loggy Log Loggerson

We got our first TL and made our first (of several) navigation mistakes. The team responded amazingly. No bitching, just turned around and moved out.

We arrived at our first waypoint and grabbed a big freaking log. We then carried said log for about 6 miles.

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Here’s the thing. This team freakin rocked.

When we picked up the log, I thought for sure we’d make it 1/2 mile (max) before we had to put it down for some stupid reason. But, it never happened. The team (the WHOLE team) jumped in and rotated in and out of the log like clockwork. I couldn’t believe it. There wasn’t a grey man to be found (yet?).

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This went on for 6 miles. The only times the log was set down was at 2 stop points by the cadre and when we had to navigate a tricky hand-off over a bridge railing. It was a really impressive thing to be a part of. From the first step to the last, the TEAM owned that log movement.

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Sustain: I’ve never been on a team like that in a GORUCK event. It was something special to see.
Improve: We often had too many people on the log which, in some ways, made walking with the log difficult. We were basically nut to butt under that log. Perhaps better spacing would have allowed for more fluid movement (speed?).

I’m the Grey Man

“Holy Shit. I’m totally the grey man right now.”

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We were 5.5 miles into our log journey and I had consistently been in rotation like all the other members of the team. But, on the back side of Belle Isle I was tired and my shoulders were destroyed (uh… like everyone else on my team). I noticed that I wasn’t walking beside the log, waiting for my turn to jump in. I had dropped back behind the log a little and was just chilling. The team had everything under control… and I just chilled.

It was so crazy because I knew, right at that moment, I was being a grey man. I didn’t like it at all, but I loved not carry the log. The team looked strong and, knowing the area, I assumed a logical break point was coming up in 1/2 a mile. So… I just walked.

Sustain: Nothing. Are you kidding me? Someone punch this guy in the face. 
: Here’s the thing. I don’t know how to fix this. Sure, “Don’t be the grey man” is a great idea. But how does one actually un-F themselves in that moment, especially if the team doesn’t notice? I don’t know…

Cadres Matter

I’ve done events with some pretty awesome Cadre and each brings their own flavor and flare to the event. That said, Cadre Garrett provided, by far, the best “GORUCK” experience.

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From the get-go, Garrett was clear on his objectives for the event and he delivered on all point. He covered the Charming the Snake material throughout the night and wove it into all our missions. Not only that, but he reinforced the lessons and principles by sharing his personal experiences as a Green Beret.  To top it off, Garrett incorporated the history of Richmond in all our stops and lessons.

If you ever have a chance to do an event with Garrett, you will not be disappointed.

Sustain: Not applicable
Improve: Not applicable

We’re all good, right?

After my little grey man episode, we took a break and Garrett delivered more leadership and team gold. I was trying to get my head right, beginning to come to term with the fact that we were likely going to be carrying that freakin log all night long.

The new TL checked in with Cadre and informed us the log was staying right there. My jaw hit the ground. I couldn’t believe it.

Even better, the next movement was up the Northbank trail (4 miles) and we only had a little piece of driftwood (4 man carry) as a coupon.

So, we walked… and walked… in cadre mandated silence.

The team, again, did a great job. We moved out at a good pace. Had a good rotation system on the driftwood.

At one point I started thinking about the team water situation. We hadn’t refilled all night at it was probably in the 2-3am range. I was familiar with the surroundings and knew that there was a water fountain coming up in about a quarter of a mile.

After my log rotation I dropped back to the end of the line. I said, “Cadre, it has been a while since I’ve been on this trail, but I’m pretty sure there is a water source in the parking lot up ahead.”

Cadre replied (with a pissed off voice) “Why are you telling me this. Are you black on water?”

I said that I was ok, but was concerned for my team since we hadn’t replenished all night.

He said something snarky and told me that if I’m black on water that I should tell my TL.

Honestly, I was pissed. What a prick. Here I am, caring about something really important like making sure people do freakin dehydrate and die, and he’s being a prick about it.

The assistant team lead was beside me and heard the conversation, so despite our “no talking” command, he heard the intel on the water and gave me the thumbs up.

But, I still had a bad taste in my mouth because of the Cadre’s response. But, it was a great learning experience on Chain of Command. The chain is Cadre – TL – ATL – Me. I usurped the chain and paid the price. Lesson learned.

Sustain: Hydration is critical. Care about your water and your team’s. If someone goes black, we’ve all failed.
Improve: Stay in the chain of command. If you have intel, a question, or a concern, take it to the ATL or the TL. They talk to Cadre, not you.

Red, White, and Grey

We made an amazing team push to make a time hack. It put us on our stomachs atop a hill next to the Virginia War Memorial 4 minutes before sunrise. We laid there in silence as we watched the sun burst over the horizon. It was stunning.

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We took our team pictures and found a place to replenish everyone’s water (the spot I mentioned earlier was frozen over).

Cadre got a new TL and was giving him his briefing. As we stood in formation I got the attention of the team. Cadre had just harped on how important attention to detail was. I had a sneaking suspicion that any infraction of Cadre’s rules from throughout the night was going to result in casualties. I gave everyone the heads up and we all agreed that we needed to keep it tight to avoid turning teammates into team weights.

Just before heading out, someone offered me the flag.

Now, in all my previous events I have never carried the flag. Usually I’m under a weight and doing my part to carry the burden. But, we didn’t have any coupons and I’ve always wanted the chance to carry the colors. What an honor.

So, we headed out and I flew the flag high. If I was going to do it, I was going to fly it so that every team member could look up and see Old Glory leading the way home.

“Flag, hold up… man down!”

And so it began. Our 2-3 mile trek to St. John’s Church (Give me liberty, or give me death) had its first casualty. It wasn’t long until we had number 2. And then number 3.

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Again, we had a great team. Everyone jumped in and rotated on and off the casualties. No complaining and no one was a grey man… well…

I held the flag.

Now, I get it that the flag is a big deal and, in some ways, the most important role on the team. But, I can carry stuff. I felt good and had energy to burn. But, instead of putting a rotation on the flag… I carried it. My team, in the meantime, carried casualties.

Deep down, I knew what I was doing. I justified it by thinking about how amazing and strong the team was. This wasn’t even hard for them. They were crushing it. Me… I held the flag.

I was grey manning it again.

What the crap, man!?!?

Eventually, one of our lighter casualties was changed from a 3 man carry to a fireman carry and they were right beside me and the flag. After we ascended some stairs, a small bit of reality came to me and I passed off the flag and grabbed the casualty. I walked as far as I could with him. Took a quick break and got back after it.

Shortly after we arrived at Endex.

Sustain: It is ok to carry the flag. Embrace the honor and fly it high and proud.
Improve: It is not ok to carry the flag to get out of carrying heavy stuff. It dishonors the very flag you are carrying numb-nuts. So, take a short turn on the flag, enjoy the moment, then pass it off and get to freakin’ work.


This was such a strange event for me, mentally. GORUCK is about leadership and team building. As Cadre said, one of the best ways you can serve your team is to make yourself better and bring that to contribute. During the event, I had my highs and lows in this area. If anything, I learned a hell of a lot about what a crappy and selfish teammate I can be. Even if nobody noticed… I did.

Sustain: Self-awareness.
Improve: Team above self.

To The Team

You all were amazing. I’ve never seen a team work so well and so hard. Our 12 hours together taught me a lot. Thank you.

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4 Replies to Confessions of a Grey Man – GORUCK Tough Class #2157 AAR

  1. Excellent article. Recommend for all, not just self-identified Grey Men and Women. There are important lessons here for everyone. Now if someone would REMIND this old, greyed man of these lessons when the time comes… or just before the time comes, the result will be better for everyone LOL

  2. I had a similar event where my mind (and body), but mostly mind weren’t right going in. I thought an event was just what I needed to pull myself out of it. I was wrong. I was the grey man or even worse… the words I quit came out of my mouth a few times. It was a small class of 6 I believe, I was talked into pushing through to not leave the team smaller. I ended up finishing, pretty much humiliated for the effort I didn’t put in and the lack of mental toughness. That was 2014 maybe, my last event… back to training for my comeback event after missing it for so long and being inspired by selection class 020.

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