Written by Sgt. Leejay Lockhart
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Fort Campbell, KY – On August 27th, 2011, Spc. Michael C. Roberts died in combat in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Only a week later, on September 3rd, Spc. Christopher J. Scott would also die in combat in Kandahar.
Both men were in their early 20s and each one gave all they had serving the nation during Operation Enduring Freedom. Both men were also part of the 716th Military Police Battalion, one of the most storied and highly decorated military police battalions in the U.S. Army.To honor their sacrifice, the 716th MP Bn. held the Peacekeeper Challenge, a series of six events from September 30th – October 4th, at Fort Campbell, KY. All of these events would challenge the strength and resolve of the competitors while the battalion watched and cheered them on.
“The Peacekeeper Challenge was basically a dedication to fallen soldiers,” said Spc. Isaiah Morales, a MP from the 163rd Military Police Detachment, 716th MP Bn., 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). “It was different events that basically tested our endurance and our ability to give our strength and give our all when we had none left … it was really just dedicated to those that gave their all.”
The battalion had each of its subordinate companies and detachments field teams that competed against each other. On September 30th, the battalion started the Peacekeeper Challenge with a 10-kilometer run and a weightlifting competition to test the speed and strength of the competing teams. Later that day, the teams donned their uniforms and body armor as they pushed M1151 Humvees in a race against each other.
On October 2nd, the teams had to rush down a trail while performing military tasks like calling for a medevac along the route. Then they crossed a river, secured a teammate to a litter and ran along a back road with their simulated casualty to the finish line.
The next event was the Sabalauski Air Assault School obstacle course on October 3rd, where teams negotiated a series of obstacles that require agility, coordination, strength and more than a little grit to complete.
The teams competed by doing pop-up pushups, box jumps, weighted lunges, pullups and a short run. The Hero Challenge became even more difficult on the day of the event when it went from doing the series one time to doing it three times.
“It was tough,” said Spc. Akilah Aisha Haywood-Ibrahimy, another MP from the 163rd Military Police Detachment. “Three times was a shocker, but I pushed through.”
She earned a challenge coin at the end of the event for her outstanding performance that day.
“Even though people were cheering my name I was really trying to focus on what I could put forth to show what they did,” said Morales, a native of Moreno Valley, CA.
One of his team members helped him find that focus by giving him some advice.
“… keep looking at that picture of Scott if you have problems,” Morales recounted. “Keep looking at that if you feel you can’t give it your all because they gave it their all.”
Throughout the week, as competitors went through each event, the soldiers in their units cheered them, ran with them, encouraged them and urged them to dig deeper. Because of their work schedules, the MP units rarely have a chance to come together as an entire battalion and the Peacekeeper Challenge gave them an opportunity to demonstrate their unit pride and use friendly rivalries to motivate each other.
“It wasn’t just for the two fallen soldiers…,” said Haywood. “It was more for everyone else to basically reinforce that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. You still have people to your left and right, in front of you and behind you that’s going to be there to cheer you on and help you out no matter what.”
Morales, who joined the military for the brotherhood it offers soldiers, echoed her.
“If you stay loyal to the people around you they will help lift you up.”
The Peacekeeper Challenge was the unit’s way of staying loyal to two young men who gave their lives to defend their nation.