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2012 Military Olympics

Posted 8/21/2012   Updated 1/22/2013 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Victoria Greenia
158th Fighter Wing

8/21/2012 - SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -- This summer, nearly 200 countries have vied for gold, silver, and bronze medals in competitive acts of physical prowess in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, the Interallied Confederation Reserve Officers recently rebranded Team USA Military, are doing their own form of Olympics with a military zest.

Select men and women from Guard and Reserve components all over the country convened at Camp Johnson in Colchester to try out for the honor to represent the United States against 13 other countries. Camp Johnson is one of only two bases in the U.S. that has the right facilities, range, and obstacle course needed.

Airman 1st Class Ziven Drake, 29 and from Woodstock, Vt., has been a crew chief with the Green Mountain Boys for almost four years. She was introduced to CIOR when she was standing in line at the dining facility in early 2011. "Senior Master Sgt. Claude Trahan came over to me and said, 'you're in shape - are you interested in this exercise?'" She looked into it and a few months later found herself just outside of Warsaw, Poland, competing with NATO and NATO-allied countries.

The pentathlon includes demanding activities like swimming an obstacle course in full gear, rifle and pistol marksmanship, combat casualty care, land navigation on a 10-15 kilometer course, and a written test on the Laws of Armed Conflict.

Seeing another part of the world, another culture, becoming friends with foreign military members, and challenging herself to constantly improve has changed her life.

In particular, she said she enjoyed spending time with other females in the military, no matter what the country. "Being a female in the military, we are vastly outnumbered by males," she said. "We're under pressure to perform without looking like a girl. It's not that we are proving ourselves against males, but we know we are being more scrutinized."

Navy Reserve Commander Grant Staats from New York, the team coordinator and captain for Team USA Military, said they scrutinize everyone for the same thing: Leadership and solid core values. "Yes, they have to pass the timed test, but we look for more than that. We look for good attitudes and strong moral characters. Each person is representing the militaries of our country." And, he said, he isn't disappointed. That's just what he gets.

Both agree that making friends despite being in opposition to one another is what makes people passionate about the CIOR program. Drake describes it as "competition, but friendly competition." Staats said that it's common for the contestants to keep in touch afterwards and even later visit each other years later, no matter what the distance is between them.

"We see strong friendships formed here again and again, which is exactly the purpose of NATO," Staats said. "It's the training and the sharing of ideas, strengthening us and our countries. Even if a person is not selected for Team USA Military, they can go back to their units and teach others what they've learned."

Drake said she would love to start a program on base where she could train interested people in the skills they teach for CIOR.

"I hope more people will learn about this program and get involved," she said. "It's an amazing opportunity to learn and get one-on-one instruction to your needs, polish your strengths and bolster your weaknesses. Where else can you get that? No where."

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