Imagine this: You’re jolted from a sound sleep around 3 a.m. Saturday morning to what sounds like the barking yells of a drill sergeant’s call. You’ve been given nothing but minutes to get into full gear and bring with you a small survival pack, enough for a day’s rations. Suddenly, you’re thrust into the black wilderness with a small team of four people moving under the cover of night with no flashlight in 35 degree weather. Your mission is to rescue a stranded pilot. During the course of that mission there will be others that include traveling about a mile up hill with three injured people in tow.
Aside from the outside elements, going into unknown, hostile territory in which darkness covers the area like a thick blanket, you are told that you will be faced with the risk of an ambush, perhaps being taken hostage, zip tied and forced down to your knees, oblivious to where you are because someone placed a heavy sack over your head. The only sounds you hear are that of growling, vicious dogs snarling near your ear as you wait for what is to become of your newly imprisoned fate.
No, you weren’t forced to do this; and you were not asked to do this; you volunteered to put yourself through it. Ahem…so…would…you???
With the STW family, we had five who did. It’s called Wilderness Survival Camp, at Camp Courage in southern California, and I met with Instructors Roger Lopez, Bridget De La Rosa, Arnold Cano, Alex Solovastru, students Josh Pemberton and Juan Juarez at our local Mama Margies restaurant to talk about their participation and winning success in this year’s competition run.
I observed this group as they sat around the table savoring their delectable, cheesy and saucy Mexican food. I was impressed with their poise, respectfulness, modesty and kindness. Their team name: The Silent Warriors. Fitting, I thought, considering that their humility and unassuming presence would leave that impression to any outsider’s perspective, unaware that these champions spent three tortuous days flying down zip lines as they shot down targets on the way down, including doing the things mentioned at the beginning of this piece. Wilderness Survival camp is led by Force Instructors from Krav Maga Worldwide and Secure Law Enforcement facilities. There were 10 teams composed of instructors, army rangers, prior service military and officers, leaving the STW team with the least amount of people.
When I asked the group what they felt contributed to their success, aside from a tight–knit team effort and great leadership, and the fact that they gained the reputation as the team that ran all time, Team Leader Roger Lopez said, “Our missions were always timed, but the girls provided cover for everyone, and that helped speed things along.”
With some of their biggest challenges being dealing with 35 degree weather in the California hills and low food supply, one stands out quite vividly: They had to eat worms!
Our notorious Bridgernator (Bridget De la Rosa) threw up, but get this, not
from the worms, but from eating military rations. “That stuff was just naaasty,” she said, followed by a full fledged, “Blegch!!!” shaking the ibby-jibbies off as she recollected the texture of her meal.
But the highlight of the mission that is most memorable according to Navigator Juan blank was that “Bridget was ACTUALLY quiet, for the very first time.” Everyone roared with laughter and Bridget agreed, “WHAT?!! That’s because I was scared. Those dogs barking in my ear when they captured us, FREAKED- me- out, and that’s why I ran the whole time.”
“It was definitely challenging,” piped Josh and Arnold Cano agreed. “It was mentally and physically trying but the most fun, and I couldn’t be prouder of my team,” he said. Alex Solovastru nodded and concurred, “I definitely learned a lot about survival and had a blast at the same time.”
I asked them if they were ready to do it again next year. “Heck yeah!” said Bridget. “We’re defending champions and we intend to keep it that way.”
Well, the STW family certainly hopes you do. Congratulations on your accomplishment team! And be sure to take some dipping sauce for those worms next time around.