GILFORD — With a ropes course, a mud crawl and a chance to fire fake assault weapons and toss imitation hand grenades, the Green Beret With a Mission Challenge next month may be as close as civilians can come to experiencing what it’s like to serve in the US Army Special Forces.
It’s also an opportunity to give back - and to support Camp Resilience, whose programming supports veterans’ mental health, bonding, recreation and transition to civilian life.
On Friday July 15, at Ladd Farm overlooking Newfound Lake in Bristol, teams of participants with will go through a 2.7-mile course that replicates reconnaissance missions, hostage situations, transporting injured soldiers, and military operations that depend on planning and teamwork.
“They are Special Forces A-teams operating behind enemy lines,” explained retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kurt Webber, co-founder and president of Camp Resilience. Last summer, during the first Green Beret Challenge, “It rained cats and dogs. People got soaking wet and covered with mud and they had a blast.”
And that’s the general idea.
The event is also a key financial pillar for Camp Resilience and the Patriot Resilient Leader Institute in Gilford, which provides extended, therapeutic weekend retreats for veterans, active-duty military and first responders.
Last year, the Green Beret With a Mission Challenge raised about $16,000. In 2022, the organization is hoping to net more, and enlist businesses that will help sponsor the event, which will increase the financial support to Camp Resilience and the Green Beret Foundation, a charity that helps Green Berets transitioning out of military service and offers scholarships for the children of fallen Green Berets.
So far this year’s challenge has about $48,000 in cash sponsorships and in-kind donations from sports teams such as the Boston Bruins and Red Sox and the New England Patriots. Business sponsors include Grappone Auto, ArborTech, a tree service company in Gilford, and Sig Sauer, which donated air pistols and mock submachine guns that look and feel like real weapons. Sponsors are welcome at any level of support, Webber said.
“Camp Resilience is a good cause,” said Tom Osmer of Sanbornton, whose team of former high school wrestlers came in second last year. “You’re supporting people who need that care and support now for going through what they did to protect the rest of us.”
Last year’s competitors included “Moms with Attitudes;” an extended family comprised of a 73-year-old grandfather, a 72-year-old grandmother, their twin 12-year-old granddaughters, and parents and kids; and several teams from gyms, and a police SWAT team from Manchester. No athletic prowess or special skills are expected or required.
Newcomers, individuals, families, veterans, teens and school, gym and club groups can sign up for morning or afternoon challenges. A Green Beret accompanies every team through the two-to-three-hour course.
“It’s an event people can push themselves hard to win or just do it to have fun,”” said Ed Harrington of Moultonborough, a retired Army brigadier general who served 33 years in the infantry, including in Vietnam, and is now as chairman of the advisory board for Camp Resilience. "It’s not just physical. They have to work as a team to solve problems. It’s mentally and physically challenging. But it’s also a lot of fun.”
“It’s a chance to get out and do something different,” said Bobi McGettigan, an Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot who served 32 years and is now on Camp Resilience’s board. “Just to get out as a team and run through the woods. It’s a great time to be had by all – for all levels and all organizations.”
The event costs $75 per person to join, and participants can sign up as teams of five to 12 people (ages 12 and older) or be assigned to a team on event day. There are two levels of difficulty – one for experienced athletes and veterans, or “operators," and another for newbies with spirit, or “recruits.” With a variety of stations and activities, including lugging water and ammo boxes and crossing ravines, the challenge is similar to “Tough Mudder” competitions held across the country, which include running up and down hills, said McGettigan said.
Osmer, who coaches wrestling at Winnisquam High School, put together a team of former high school wrestlers last year, including an active duty Marine and one veteran and others who do martial arts. “Part of it was the camaraderie of getting together,” he said. “In general, we like to do hard things, and when we get to do it together, it’s more fun.”
The stations were designed around being in a foreign country assisting locals, he said. “It’s only as hard as you want it to be. We got to haul heavy objects” – including car batteries to a mock radio station “so local insurgents could communicate. It has a very strong Green Beret theme to it. It’s not like an athletic event.”
“It starts out with a lot of trepidation but ends up with a lot of entertainment,” said Harrington. Roughly 30 to 40% of last year’s participants were veterans. “For veterans, it was a chance to get back together among brethren.”
“You do it at our own level, at your own pace,” said McGettigan. “There is no pressure other than the pressure to have fun.”
For more information about sponsoring or participating in the Green Beret with a Mission Challenge, go to camp-resilience.org or swam.org (Swim with a Mission, a related event on July 16 at Newfound Lake). Help is needed on July 15 with registration and the barbecue buffet line. For information on how to volunteer at Green Beret With a Mission, email firstname.lastname@example.org.