Team Valhalla Armory competed in the 2012 Survival Trial held at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico. Twelve teams from throughout the United States pushed themselves to the absolute limit to see if they had what it takes to survive.
The Survival Trial is a 24-hour survival-based endurance competition that incorporates shooting scenarios, physical and mental challenges, and mini-games. Working in two-person teams, competitors must utilize a strong strategic approach in order to complete the survival trial.
Each competitor carried a survival pack weighing around 45 pounds, along with a handgun and rifle. The teams were also required to carry a long range rifle capable of engaging targets out to 1000 yards. Teams are given a map and about 15-20 grid coordinates indicating the location of different events and stages. They then had 24 hours to complete as many stages as possible on foot.
Team Valhalla Armory was comprised of Gary Dudley from Morgan, Utah and Craig Coale from Taylorsville, Kentucky. Gary and Craig met at the U.S. Air Force Ground Combat Training Center in Germany, where they were instructors in the mid ‘90s. They’ve maintained their friendship over the years and decided the survival trial might be like “old times.”
The common question all competitors heard over and over is, “Why would you do something like this?” Valhalla Armory owner, and Morgan County Deputy Sheriff, Gary Dudley replied, “Events like survival trial allow you to reset what’s possible. It’s a test to see if you have what it takes to do hard things. I just wanted to fuel that fire within.” Craig answered this way, “There is just a certain drive within some people, a passionate fire that must be tested, and must be tried again and again. It’s there, or it’s not - and if it’s not there, no answer I give will make any sense to you.”
When asked about the hardest part, Craig said, “Looking back over the race, the hardest part was not the skill challenges, events or tasks we had to perform. There was something very specific in front of you to overcome. It is inspiring and focuses the mind and body on defeating that objective. The surprising “hardest part” was the boredom of seemingly endless miles of just walking in the dark. There were no challenges, no tasks, nothing to focus on and no visual or mental goal line to cross. Once boredom set in, the mind starts to wander, to lose focus and to start questioning.”
Craig and Gary both agreed that the most challenging aspect of the survival trial was the totality of the situation. This was not a physical challenge, a mental challenge or a technical challenge. The real test of each individual competing was the combination at all phases of physical, mental and technical capabilities. At a point of exhaustion physically, we were navigating highly technical routes in pitch dark through mountain passes in a state of mental stress induced by monotonous 10 mile stretches of hard terrain.
Not all of the stations were about shooting. Competitors would arrive at a station only to find a sign written in Spanish. Using a Spanish/English dictionary, the teams had to translate the message and write it down on their score sheets. Other messages, also in Spanish, informed teams of how to earn bonus points for completing certain tasks like moving a tire five miles to the top of a mountain.
Craig sums up the experience by saying, “To really define this race, let me give an example of one six hour stretch. We had trail marched and climbed for about five hours of 10-12 miles of mountain passes without stopping. We had covered a total of 30 miles when we finally make it to an obstacle and shooting station. I look over at Gary, and in my mind, I am just simply beat. I am totally gassed, the calories I have burned have left me a bit weak in the knee’s without the ability to truly replenish them. Looking at Gary, we crash to the ground in unison and he says, ‘Man, I’m spent, I got nothin’ left.’ Then we start the challenge of this station and he pulls out his Sig handgun, shoots 75 yards down an embankment, transitions to AR15 rifle, shoots and moves 100 yards up a creek bed, at 1a.m., in total darkness. He hits 100 percent of targets, then picks up and carries a 110lb human mannequin made from logs back up the creek, up the hill, and a hundred fifty more yards down the road with a fireman carry. Of course I am cheering him on, as he did me. He finally finishes this stage and I look at him and ask, ‘Dude, thought you were spent, I thought you had nothing left?’...He says, ‘I am, and I don’t... and crashes back to the ground!’ That moment defines what this race was about. With nothing left, no energy, demoralized and physically and mentally exhausted, to suddenly pick up and hammer a challenge that alone on a good day would be difficult. Somehow, from somewhere deep inside, there is always an ember of the warriors spirit that only needs the slightest breath of a challenge to roar back to life, blaze brightly, and somehow, just get it done.”
Upon making their way to the finish line, Team Vahalla Armory had covered 36 miles and finished in third place.
ValhallaArmory.com is an Internet based supplier of tactical weapons and survival gear based in Morgan, Utah.