Winter Survival 2020: A Tough Race in Mountains
Winter Survival 2020 is over. Military teams faced physical demand, lack of sleeping, frost, continuous thinking over moves from one check point to the next and completing the survival disciplines of special physical training and military skills. They moved on hilltops as well as down in valleys on roads covered with fresh snow while power management and energy replenishment played the key roles.
The Military Winter Survival competition is a synonym for an extreme, stamina, mountain combat action, but also for friendship and craving for joint arrival at finish. Arranged regularly by the University of Defence, the competition keeps surprising the participants, never being the same.
In the beginning of three-day endurance stage the teams representing five nations moved from Ovcarna pod Pradedem Hotel over the Velky Maj hill to Dlouhe Strane water reservoirs. There, they first went to cross-country race around the upper reservoir and time trial free terrain downhill to the lower reservoir. After another eight kilometres uphill to Svycarna chalet they did the "Search in an Avalanche Area" discipline. Then they moved further to end at Videlske Sedlo parking area. Teams spent the first freezing night close to Ztracena chalet having covered the demanding twenty-seven kilometres.
On the second day of the championships, as usual arranged by the physical training teachers working for the University of Defence's Physical Training and Sports Centre, was in the spirit of demanding marching up and down, around and across the ridges of the Hruby Jesenik Mountains. On the twenty-five-kilometre route with a hilly profile the teams crossed gulches and hills featuring quite high elevations.
Austrians were the best in the rocks
The selecting tests of the competition day were two disciplines: "Rope Path" in the middle of rocks and moving the heavy "Burden". The team members were to climb up on a rope ladder and rope net on a twenty-meter high rock and then pull the last team member up using a pulley. All then moved on the flat rock top to the point from where they crossed the space between two rocks on twin horizontal ropes and a slanting ladder to finally rappel down from the rock top on ropes.
"Go again, you'll make it!" shout the Austrian mountain infantry team mate to their last team member who slid from the rope and is failing in his effort of getting back up with loosing strength and hands numb with cold. Heavy snowfall and freezing wind do not help rock climbing at all.
"Come here and help," yells David Suntinger to his team mates but they must not. Regulations prevent assistance during that challenging event on rocks. He looks paralyzed for a moment hung on the secured rope high above the space. Then he shakes his hands and succeeds to swing up back on the horizontal rope stretched between trees. In a while the entire three-member team is down. One of few who completed the discipline.
Only four teams managed to meet the 15-minute time limit. The team for the Logistics Agency was among them. "The rope path was a really difficult discipline, which demanded a lot from us," assessed captain Michal Pech the team performance at the check point. "We had the skiing boots on all the time over the track as we hoped in moving on skis. Eventually, it was some 70 per cent of the track despite that heavy snowfall," said Jan Rada, a member of the same team.
Moving must go on!
When done, the teams checked the equipment, read the right bearing from the map and went on through the hills of the Hruby Jesenik Mountains up to the place where they stop for a moment. A 200-kg burden awaited them at the "Videlske Sedlo" parking lot. The teams could use ropes to move it over 10-metre distance and had one fixed point available where a carbiner hung on a steel loop on a tree. The only additional thing that could help them to accomplish the activity was their creativity. The teams spent the second night in the forest at "Bariny" place where the biathlon race took place.
The most physically and mentally challenging activity of the final phase in the three-day stage of the prestigious military competition was the "Up and Down the Rock Face" one. The teams were first to climb the "Rolanduv Kamen" rock using secured ropes while each team member took a different route. The routes differed in difficulty. When reached the top, each team member rappelled down using one of three prepared ropes. With the ski shoes on, the soldiers had hard time with slippery iced rock.
The length of the ideal route to cover on movement on Wednesday, equally to the previous day, measured approximately 25 kilometres unless teams got lost and walked an extra portion of kilometres. "We wanted to make the move easier and deviated a bit. In fact, it meant few kilometres more," confessed first lieutenant Miroslav Hovorka for the Air Force team.
Two teams for Air Force since long time
The Air Force sent two teams to last year's issue of Winter Survival. Along with the mixed team for the 22 helicopter Air Base Sedlec and the 24 transport Air Base Kbely, it was a team for 21 tactical Air Base Čáslav participating in the competition for the very first time. "I have persuaded my colleagues to form a team. We have no ambitions of good ranking, all we want is to get to the finish," said the base's physical training officer sergeant first class Karel Rozsypal, a multiple participant in the competition for Military Police.
While freezing wind and heavy snowfall made teams' moving more difficult on Tuesday, Wednesday morning in the mountains offered sunny weather and almost no wind. In addition to the rock climbing near Karlova Studanka spa, the activities for the teams included a time trial in the valley of Bila Opava and "First Aid in the Field". The latter one eventually showed out to be the most physically demanding. At first, noon brought a radical weather change – fog and strong wind appeared – and at second, the teams, after administered medical treatment to the "injured" person, had to evacuate the person up a steep slope in deep snow to the parking lot near Ovcarna pod Pradedem.
The matter of the last competition activities was primarily being fast in snowshoes running and ski relay race and skilful in throwing rubber grenades and in safe transport of an "injured" person. The teams first ran half a kilometre wearing snow shoes near "Kurzovni" Hotel and then performed two rounds of a ski relay race on the three-kilometre track. They also threw rubber grenades for precision within the relay race. Then, the "Transport of an Injured Person" activity followed right after the race. The teams used UT2000 stretchers and wore snow shoes for the activity. The Thursday kings under Praded Hill were safely the 102 reconnaissance battalion team members.
Army logisticians win
The 26th Army of the Czech Republic International Outdoor Polyathlon Winter Survival 2020 winners were captain Michal Pech, master sergeant Miroslav Sroler and sergeant Jan Rada for the Logistics Agency team. "We had an intensive training before the event. Our teamwork showed effective. We did our best since the very beginning and were lucky. We are very happy for the victory" assessed Captain Michal Pech his team result.
Silver medals were won by StWm Christof Wastl, Kpl Uwe Hochenwarter and OWm David Suntinger for the Austrian 26 Mountain Infantry battalion. Lieutenant Ladislav Sás, CPL Milan Wurst and SFC Josef Zlámal for the 73 tank battalion won the bronze medals.
The trophies to the winning teams were presented by University of Defence rector-commandant Brigadier General Bohuslav Přikryl, Cyber Defence and Information Operations Command commander Brigadier Miroslav Feix, deputy governor Jan Krkoška, Air Force and Air Defence Technical Institute director Petr Novotny and the championship partners' representatives. The ceremony took place in front of the spa mansion Libuše in Karlova Studánka Spa, watched by the spa visitors and residents.
Twelve of eighteen teams were able to finish the competition. Most teams who had to withdraw from the competition due to a team member injury continued racing even without points. Disappointed but resolved to arrive to the three-day stage finish.
Author: Pavel Pazdera
Winter Survival 2019: Military Race Through Jesenik Mountains
Frost clenched the valley while the rocks topping the forest bathed in the first sunrays. The only sound heard in the omnipresent silence was tinkling from the mountaineering gear and the cheers at the moment a team member leaned against the rope in front attempting to get from one top to another twenty-five metres above the valley. Extreme military competition of Winter Survival across the Hruby Jesenik Mountains came to its climax.
The rocks that once used to host Rabstejn Castle welcomed the Winter Survival 2019 teams with the probably physically and psychologically most challenging event within the four days. After two nights spent outdoor in snow, the three-member teams set off climbing three rocks, one by one.
They first scrambled up to the rocks through deep snow. A step aside from the track resulted in being stuck in snow waist deep. The teams were to climb the first rock top using the fixing rope, but there were three ways to the second top while each team member had to choose a different one from the other team mates. Route A was made up of two parallel ropes where each contestant had to be attached to both ropes by two separate securing methods. Route B went along a via ferrata and route C consisted of two parallel ropes, one approximately 2 meters higher than the other. The contestants attached to the upper rope with the ferrata set with both snap hooks. The rope might have been used for climbing while the lower rope supported feet. The way from the second top to the third used a rope net. Each team member then rappelled down 30 metres to the ground. Time needed for covering the routes was measured, naturally. While some teams literally zoomed through the event without the least hesitation, others took more time to complete the adrenaline event.
"We managed the activity but in more time because we are less experienced in military climbing. However, the point of the competition is to endure up to the finish," said staff sergeant Michal Chum representing the 153th engineer battalion. The best team on the rocks was that for the Slovak 5th special operations regiment.
Events like this one were designed to check the fitness and stamina of the military teams who had to cover, on skis or on foot, approximately 80 kilometres throughout the Hruby Jesenik Mountains in the four competition days carrying all equipment for survival on their back. The soldiers moved many kilometres from one checkpoint to the next one mostly on frosted snow, faced challenging events, nature's traps and fatigue.
Marking Double Anniversary
The 25th international championship of the Army of the Czech Republic Winter Survival 2019 took place in the Hruby Jesenik Mountains in the last week of January in the repeated arrangements of the University of Defence. Nineteen military teams coming from five Europe countries appeared there. The most numerous representation was that for the Czech military forces, out of which the largest part of seven teams was for the Land Forces. The home newbie was the team for the Military Geographical and Hydrometeorological Institute Dobruska. The international teams representing special mountain units came from Austria and Germany, special operation unit from Slovakia and cadets arrived from Poland. Ovcarna pod Pradedem military recreational facility turned into the home base for the competing soldiers and the organisers of the well-known event.
That year edition double marked its history. The organisers remembered the quarter-century of the new-age competition as well as the anniversary of the first international military team ski races held in Zelezna Ruda in 1924. Three-member teams competed in combined 17-km cross-country ski race, 7-km obstacle race and ski jumping. Czechoslovak soldiers ranked first in all three disciplines on that occasion.
Winter Survival is the most challenging sport event held by the Czech military forces. It includes adrenaline outdoor disciplines of sporting nature, special physical training elements and small team mountain tactics. "The military competition verifies the skills military personnel need in winter conditions. It faces them with unexpected problems and puts them in surprising situations that might happen in real operation. The sophisticated events encourage the athletes to think, make their own decisions and use creativity. Everybody has to find an original way out, believe in own abilities and use just the equipment he or she wears. Extreme mental stress is another specific feature," said the University's Physical Training and Sports Centre director colonel Petr Hanák.
Two female athletes appeared
Within the most challenging three-day endurance stage, the military teams climbed rock walls, crossed water streams and gulches, went for an orienteering race, artificial obstacle track and downhill time trial, administered first aid and shot military arms wearing gas masks, spent two nights outdoor and accomplished other event related to the test of mental strength and winter mountain survival.
"Snow amount is better than good. It felt fine on move despite we got tired from the heavy backpacks. We often changed clothes," assessed the moves Matthias Szöke for the Austrian team. They planned to defend their victory from the previous year. "There are good team here. We will see what we can do. We will do our best," said Uwe Hochenwarter.
The selecting test on the second competition day was the event "Up The Rock". Each team member was to pass the appropriate trail on the twenty-meter rock under Plosina Hill within ten minutes. One of the three secured routes went through an overhang. For passing it, the soldiers could use the suspended rope ladder. "I failed climbing up the rock within the time limit. The rock was frost covered and slippery" complained sergeant Zdeněk Šroler of the team for 14th logistic support regiment.
Winter Survival welcomed two female competitors after more than 10 year since the last appearance. One of them was in the team for the 42nd mechanised battalion Tábor and the other in the team for the Military Geographic and Hydrometeorologic Office Dobruška. "One of the original team members fell ill short before the competition and the team asked me to replace him. It was a big challenge for me I gladly accepted. I've been doing fine and believe to get to finish," said lieutenant Tereza Vacková.
Outdoor Trail alias Military Race
When done, the teams checked the equipment, read the right bearing from the map and went on through the hills of the Hruby Jesenik Mountains up to the place where they stopped for a moment. Behind the cemetery in Ludvikov village the teams were to tackle the natural and manmade obstacles on an outdoor trail. There were six obstacles on the course: getting over a log, rocks and wooden blocks, crawling under stretched ropes, surmounting a suspended log and carrying 20-kilo burdens over 30-metre distance.
More kilometres over and a freezing night ahead. Tents were forbidden but nobody really minded. Temperature falling to minus seven degrees Celsius at night feels like "warm" comparing some previous years. Several of the participant remember twenty-five degrees below zero.
"We have sleeping bags, foils, mats, and I put a flask filled with hot water in the sleeping bag that lasts till morning," said one of the competitors. He admits most of his mates use summer bags as those for winter need too much space in the backpack with obligatory equipment and stuff. All try to get a bit of weight off. Despite, the backpacks with the equipment and supplies weigh some twenty kilos. Experienced participants manage to decrease the weight to fifteen.
At the end the teams moved from Rabstejn via Skrítek, Ztracené skály, Jelení hrbet, Velky Máj and Petrovy kameny to Ovcarna pod Pradedem. University of Defence teams were less successful losing a lot of points at movements and downhill legs. On the contrary, they were good at military climbing and University Team 2 was the best in "Field First Aid" event.
Seventh Brigade Won the Championship
The event of the last competition day was parallel slalom taking place in Ski Arena Karlov pod Pradedem. The teams had to raise up the hill along the track to go for the elimination heats. The kings of the event were the team members for the Slovak 5th special operations regiment who beat all. Sixteen of the nineteen teams finished the competition.
The 25th Army of the Czech Republic International Outdoor Polyathlon Winter Survival 2019 winners are captain Viktor Novotný, SFC Josef Zlámal and CPL Milan Wurst for the 7th mechanised brigade team. "It was tough but the motivation was high. We are glad that our team won this year. We did our best from the beginning and also were lucky" assessed captain Viktor Novotný the result. The teams for the 7th mechanised brigade have ranked among the best in Winter Survival regularly with a three-straight victories since 2014 and a second place in the previous year.
Silver medals were won by 1LT Matěj Picka, CPL Tomáš Bobek and PFC Vojtěch Neumann for the 13th artillery regiment. SFC Martin Dlhopolec, SGT Vladimír Šooš and CPL Michal Rajniak for the Slovak 5th special operations regiment won the bronze medals. "It was a fierce fight until the end. We are very happy for the third place" said SFC Martin Dlhopolec. He appreciated organisers' work who arranged a good competition.
The trophies to the winning teams were presented by the deputy chief of general staff – Joint Operation Centre director Major General Jiří Verner, University of Defence rector-commandant Brigadier General Bohuslav Přikryl, deputy governor Jan Krkoška, Military Technical Institute director Jiří Protiva and the championship partners' representatives. The ceremony took place in front of the spa mansion Libuše in Karlova Studánka Spa, watched by the spa visitors and residents.
Author: Pavel Pazdera
Winter competition of three-member military teams. Soldiers are accompanied by physical exertion, lack of sleep, cold, constant thinking about the progress from one checkpoint to another and fulfilling embedded disciplines. They move both on snow-covered mountain tops and along muddy paths in the valleys. Here, good orientation in the terrain, the strategy of force distribution and replenishment of energy play a very important role.
This year's Winter Survival competition was again extremely demanding and, in some cases, quite painful. Paradoxically, the fact that the lower elevations of Hrubý Jeseník Mountains were completely snow-free contributed to this. Instead of overcoming the terrain on skis, the competitors in most cases had no choice but to carry the alpine skis on their backs for dozens of kilometres.
Winter Survival is synonymous with extreme, endurance, combat activities in the mountains, but also with friendship and the desire to get to finish together. The military race across the Jeseníky mountains can surprise competitors every year. It is never the same. After three days, two teams dropped out of competition. And the treacherous tasks on the track took a toll on those who were able to continue, too.
During the three-day endurance stage, the military and police teams first completed an accelerated movement from Ovčárna pod Pradědem over the Malý Děd hill, Videlské sedlo pass to Šumná settlement near Bělá pod Pradědem. The move also included a two-kilometre off-road descent time trial. After that, the "establish connection" discipline was on the program. As part of it, each team had to pull one of its members on a rope to a height of thirty meters in the treetops, where that member then changed the battery in the radio and established a connection with the organizers.
"We didn't do very well with this task. We pulled our colleague up via the hoist with the help of Jumars, which took us a long time," said the captain of the Logistics Agency team, captain Michal Pech. The event took them almost 6 minutes. At the same time, the best time was 1:19 minutes, which was achieved by soldiers from the 72nd mechanized battalion of Přáslavice. The soldiers spent the first frosty night in Šumná settlement after a gruelling move of more than twenty kilometres.
Until Wednesday, soldiers in full survival gear moved along the ridges of Hruby Jeseník Mountains, climbing rock walls, crossing river gorges and watercourses, completing a biathlon race, providing first aid and transporting a wounded person, shooting at targets from Bren assault rifles and Phantom pistols or led a fight with the enemy for the bunkers of the former border fortification. In total, they covered more than eighty kilometres through rugged terrain and spent a second night in the forest.
Make good decisions under stress
Twenty military teams from seven European countries presented at the start of the 24th annual International Championship of the Army of the Czech Republic of Winter Survival 2018, which took place at the turn of January and February in the Hrubý Jeseník Mountains, and which was again organized by the University of Defence. The largest representation was for the Czech Armed Forces and within it the Ground Forces, which sent eight teams. The University of Defence was represented by two teams. Members of special forces and students of military universities from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine came from abroad. For the first time in history, in addition to the army teams, two police teams also took part. They were teams of elite intervention units of the Moravian-Silesian and South Moravian regions. Police officers thus compared their strength and skills with military professionals.
"Participants in the Winter Survival competition passed a tough test of endurance. The competition for soldiers tested their level of skills in the field of special physical training, military training, as well as the ability to make quick and correct decisions when completing tasks," said the director of the race, colonel Milan Marek, University of Defence deputy rector. The difficulty of the military endurance race currently lies in that the tasks require along with physical performance and certain military skills from soldiers, also the right thinking, so the ability to make good decisions under stress is important.
The touchstones of the second competition day at this year's Winter Survival were two disciplines, namely the biathlon race and the occupation of bunkers. The biathlon race at the shooting range in Adolfovice village near Bělá pod Pradědem was originally supposed to take place on snowshoes, due to the lack of snow, the soldiers ran without them. Each team member ran two laps and fired twice with an army submachine gun at five biathlon targets.
In the effort to avoid stagnation of the race, the organizers from the Centre for Physical Education and Sports of the University of Defence partially change the disciplines from year to year. This year, for example, there was a survival activity called "occupation of bunkers". In it, soldiers equipped with ballistic vests, Kevlar helmets, military air rifles and explosives occupied bunkers that came from the former Czechoslovak border fortifications and eliminated targets imitating the enemy from the firing positions.
"The race is very interesting, full of various disciplines. If only there was snow in the lower areas. Running up the hills with the load, which is made even worse by ski alpines and ski boots attached to the backpacks, is very exhausting," said Senior Sergeant Jakub Havel from the 14th Logistic Support Regiment of Pardubice.
After reaching the finish line of the second day of the endurance stage, the organizers included the task of "cross the stream" in the program.
The lack of snow suited the police intervention team
While most teams lamented the lack of snow, race participants from the Ostrava police intervention unit, who were at Winter Survival for the first time, made fun of the bare terrain. "There is quite a lot of snow here. What we skied was more than enough for us," said the captain of the police team Michal Apolenář, who considers the race an interesting confrontation. "It's actually good for us that there is no snow, because we don't use skis in our work and we're definitely not excellent skiers. Even the disciplines are generally different from what we train for," he described.
On the other hand, occupying the bunkers of the former military fortifications and liquidating enemy fit the police members. In this discipline, competitors put on protective equipment and got a weapon and each went to the assigned bunker. Deafening shots rang out from the terrain as they "paralyzed" the enemy hidden inside with explosive devices. Then they had to shoot down three more targets around the bunker in the form of small balloons. "This suits us exactly," praised the head of the police team after completing the task.
The most physically and mentally demanding discipline of the final part of the three-day stage of this military competition was the discipline called "up and down the rock obstacles". The task of the patrols was to first overcome a relatively long section in the rock wall by ferrata method, then overcome a rope bridge and abseil from a forty-meter rock. "Ferrata surprised me. It was difficult to overcome," stated Lieutenant Martin Hejda from the Air Force team.
While on Monday or Tuesday the soldiers only had military air rifles and submachine guns available for shooting, on Wednesday they were already shooting at targets with the most modern weapons - Bren assault rifles and Phantom pistols.
At another checkpoint, the competitors were faced with the task of providing first aid to wounded soldiers in a combat action. The teams received the following situation: A foot patrol of Czech soldiers came into contact with the enemy. Two of them were shot during the retreat. After the impact, both of them fell down a steep 50-meter slope in the forest. The enemy has been silenced, the tactical situation is now under control. The task of the patrol (coalition patrol) was to treat the wounded and transport them to safety using UT 2000 stretchers, where they can be handed over to the MEDEVAC team. Injuries included a gunshot wound to the back and a fractured femur in one soldier, a gunshot wound to the abdomen, an open fractured hand and a stuck tongue in the other soldier. The patrol was supposed to care for the wounded according to the Tactical Combat Casualty Care procedure for combatants.
The Austrians dominated the entire championship
In the last competition disciplines on Thursday, it was mainly about speed during the slalom and good orientation in the terrain when looking for checkpoints. The qualifying races of the parallel slalom took place on the slopes of the Vrbno pod Pradědem Ski Arena. The members of the 26th Mountain Infantry Battalion from Austria reigned supreme in the parallel slalom, for which the Czech teams were not enough. The slalom was immediately followed by an orienteering race under the slope.
The winner of the 24th annual international championship of Winter Survival 2018 was the team of the 26th mountain infantry battalion in Spittal an der Drau, consisting of first lieutenant Peter Lamprecht, sergeants Daniel Buchacher and David Suntinger. "We liked the race's disciplines. It's just a pity that there is not much snow," said First Lieutenant Lamprecht, who works as a training instructor for the mountain infantry. "Participation in the Czech Winter Survival is a good preparation for us for the race in Switzerland, which awaits us shortly. There is nothing like it in Europe, so we are happy to accept your invitation," stated a member of the winning team.
Silver medals were won by soldiers of the 7th mechanized brigade in Hranice - captain Viktor Novotný (74th light motorized battalion Bučovice), sergeant Ivo Vrba and corporal Milan Wurst (73rd tank battalion Přáslavice). The bronze was deservedly won by Captain Michal Pech, Chief Warrant Officer Miroslav Šroler and Sergeant Jan Rada from the Logistics Agency in Stará Boleslav.
And how did the teams of the University of Defence do? The mixed team ranked at a nice 8th place, and the Faculty of Military Health Sciences team finished at 19th place. "Given how high-quality teams gathered at this year's Winter Survival Championship, the overall eighth place is a good result," evaluated the performance of the UO mixed team, its leader Jan Miroš.
Cups and prizes were presented to the most successful teams by the deputy director of the MoD capability development and planning section Brigadier General Ivo Střecha, rector-commander of the University of Defence Brigadier General Bohuslav Přikryl and director of Military spa and recreation facilities Václav Studený. The ceremony took place at Ovčárna pod Pradědem military recreation facility, which every year becomes the logistical base of the entire competition.
Author: Pavel Pazdera
Winter Survival 2017: Everybody Who Arrives in Finish Wins
There is a sure point and probably the crowd-puller in the military sports calendar for January – Winter Survival competition held in the Hruby Jesenik Mountains. It attracts both the experienced military sportsmen who take part in the competition regularly and rookies who are eager to succeed in the extremely challenging event. All of them are the representatives of their units, then.
The Military Winter Survival competition is a synonym for an extreme, stamina, mountain combat action, but also for friendship and craving for joint arrival at finish. "We do our best to finish, to pass all events and accomplish all tasks" says lieutenant Marek Váňa, the team leader for the 71st mechanised battalion Hranice.
Within the most challenging three-day endurance stage, the military teams first moved fast from the Ovcarna facility to the ski resort of Ramzova, passing through Červenohorské Sedlo, Keprník and Šerák. That included timed terrain downhill events with the last on the ski tracks in Ramzova. Then a pistol shooting event at the Bela pod Pradedem range and memory orienteering race using an orthographic map followed. The teams spent the first freezing night after the demanding forty-kilometre movement in the vicinity of Dykova Chata Challet.
Due to health reasons, teams for 7th mechanised brigade, Military Police and for the Military Department at the Faculty of Physical Education and Sports at the Charles University withdrew from the competition on Monday evening. The team for Ukraine airborne forces withdrew after the night spent outdoors and Slovakia I team was disqualified having used the emergency phone but continued out of competition.
All days till Wednesday, the military teams were moving on the hills and ridges of the Hruby Jesenik Mountains with the skis put on, carrying the all the survival equipment and using their maps and compasses for orientation. They climbed rock blocks, crossed stream gulches and rope bridges, rescued injured persons, shot with Bren assault rifles, escaped from captivity and searched for improvised explosive devices. Enough snow also in lower altitudes allowed them to move on skis covering more than one hundred kilometres in total through free terrain and spent the second night in the woods.
Passing a Difficult Resiliance Test
The 23rd international championship of the Army of the Czech Republic Winter Survival 2017 took place in the Hruby Jesenik Mountains in the last week of January in the repeated arrangements of the University of Defence. Eighteen military teams coming from five Europe countries appeared there. The most numerous representation was that for the Czech military forces, out of which the largest part of seven teams was for the Land Forces. The international teams representing for special units and for cadets arrived from Belgium, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine. The last mentioned nation appeared in the competition for the first time ever and withdrew right after the first day of competition due to the lack of experience with alpinist ski work.
"Winter Survival participants went through a very challenging test of resilience. They were checked for the level of skills in special physical training, military training and their ability of making quick and correct decisions during the events" said competition director colonel Milan Marek. The snag of the military endurance competition is in the necessity of making correct decisions under stress along with the ability of physical performance and certain military skills.
The event named "To The Top Through a Cave" was exactly like that. The teams were tasked to move up a steep slope of the Plosina Hill climbing through a dark cave, then on an inclined rope, over a rope bridging and rappel down a thirty-meter high rock. But… The team members first had drawn their handicaps – blind, deaf or dumb – and only after that set off to the rocks. The "blind" one received pasted over ski goggles, the "deaf" one put on a headset with loud music and the "dumb" one got a gag. That limited their abilities of communication as well as of rock climbing.
The "blind" role in the team for Pardubice logistics support regiment came to master sergeant Jakub Havel. "The combined three handicaps made the event very complicated, but not so much surprising for us. Just in that morning we had talked about how much interesting a similar task would be" confessed Havel. He coped with his blindness excellently being able to rappel down without his teammates assistance. "Guys guided me up as I could not make that alone and it was all. I could manage the rest" completed master sergeant his opinion.
"The event checked their climbing skills, physical and mental strength. More than a half of the teams were able to complete in within the 30-minute time limit" stated satisfied one of the task authors University Physical Training and Sports Centre's lieutenant colonel David Ullrich.
Fighting Fatigue and Frost
Military Winter Survival across the Hruby Jesenik Mountains can surprise the participants every year. It is never the same. The tricky activities and temperature below zero wore out all who remained in the competition.
"Come on, go go go, just five metres left" shouted two of the Jince artillery regiment team towards their third team member who exerted his last strengths hanging on the rope between two rock tops. After sixty metres of moving hand over hand twenty-five metres high above the treetops he needed the last span to complete one of the adrenaline events of the competition and the time limit was unstoppably getting short.
Coming under the Javůrka Hill, the teams were to climb up to the twenty-metre high rock on the secured route, than move to the high spruce treetop to climb again up its trunk and get on the rock again. The rock in the woods used to be the place of the medieval castle named "Weissenstein" in the ruins of which the teams received another task. The chosen team member was to cover the distance between two rocks there and back using the fixed level ropes.
Along with climbing skills tests and physical fitness checks the teams were challenged in other types of events, such as in "Escape From Captivity". For this activity, two team mates were handcuffed by one hand while another two tied with a rope by one leg each. The task of the team was to go safely through an escape route going up and down the slope, through a tunnel and crossed several times a creek – across wooden bridge, stones, arranged logs placed on ground of hung under a bridge. They had to escape from the captivity in 10 minutes.
Best Team: Chrudim' Airborne battalion
The key in the last Thursday events was in fast downhill skiing and skill in hand grenade throwing. The teams first went to timed downhill on the adapted track while the route crossed various obstacles made from wooden logs or big tyres and the final jump just before the finish. Immediately after skiing the teams continued to the "Destruction of an Observation Post" – they threw the grenades for distance and then ran with the snowshoes put on throwing the grenades for precision at targets.
Winter Survival 2017 winners are Master Sergeant Richard Dvořák and Sergeants Zdeněk Černý and Ondřej Pajer for the 43rd airborne battalion of Chrudim. "We are very happy we are excited. The competition was much more difficult this year, full of nice events. We won the Krkomen event in December and now the Winter Survival. It is great" reviewed Sergeant Zdeněk Černý. "We had the same team for the last year Winter Survival and we ended fourth. It is a success" said team captain Master Sergeant Richard Dvořák.
Silver medals were won by Captain Jan Tancibudek and Lieutenants Miroslav Hovorka and Martin Hejda for the 22nd Helicopter Base in Náměšť nad Oslavou while Master Sergeant Jakub Havel, Sergeant Zdeněk Šroler and Corporal Adam Štěpán for the 14th Logistics Support Regiment in Pardubice reached the well-deserved bronze medals. As far as the international teams ranking, Slovak special operation regiment ranked 6th, Belgian commandos 8th and Polish academy teams 11th and 13th.
The trophies to the winning teams were presented by the Deputy Director of Capabilities Development and Planning Division Brigadier General Jaromír Alan, University of Defence rector-commandant Brigadier General Bohuslav Přikryl, director of Military Technical Institute Jiří Protiva and other representatives of the Czech forces. The ceremony took place in the Ovčárna pod Pradědem military recreation facility that is the logistics base for the competition every year.
Author: Pavel Pazdera
WINTER SURVIVAL 2016: Arranged by University of Defence in Hruby Jesenik Mountains
"Come on! Breath deep and work, go!" a voice spreads in the gulch near Bělá pod Pradědem village, at the place where the Studený Potok stream falls down to a 30-metre deep hollow and every winter freezes to form an amazing ice wall. Climbing up the ice cataract was the first attractive task for the teams participating in Winter Survival 2016 extreme military competition.
Only one member of each three-member team was allowed to, equipped with crampons and ice axe, tackle the ice wall. The rain falling during the previous warm days melted one side of the cataract making thus the organisers from the University of Defence's Physical Training and Sports Centre cancel the other route they had prepared on the ice barrier.
Events like this one were designed to check the fitness and stamina of the military teams who had to cover, on skis or on foot, approximately 60 kilometres throughout the Hruby Jesenik Mountains in the four competition days carrying all equipment for survival on their back. The soldiers moved many kilometres from one checkpoint to the next one in melting snow, faced rain, thaw, thick fog and, when they were climbing the Praded hill in the last leg, a strong wind reaching up to 90 kms/hour.
"The conditions this year were really challenging. Extreme weather changes and penetrating wet air were really unpleasant" looked back first lieutenant Viktor Novotny, 33, for the 7th mechanised brigade team. Even as a well-trained long-distance cross-country ski runner exercising physical fitness all year round he was in difficult situation in the melted snow.
The 22nd international championship of the Army of the Czech Republic Winter Survival 2016 took place in the Hruby Jesenik Mountains in the last week of January in the repeated arrangements of the University of Defence. Sixteen military teams coming from four Europe countries appeared there. The most numerous representation was that for the Czech military forces, out of which the largest part of six teams was for the Land Forces. The international teams arrived from Germany, Austria and Slovenia. The last mentioned nation appeared in the competition for the first time ever.
"Winter Survival participants went through a very challenging test of resilience. They were checked for the level of skills in special physical training, military training and their ability of making quick and correct decisions during the events" said competition director colonel Milan Marek. The snag of the military endurance competition is in the necessity of making correct decisions under stress along with the ability of physical performance and certain military skills.
The event named "Rocky" was exactly like that. The soldiers were first tasked to climb a high rock following secured paths finding indicia along the route from which they copied the necessary information. Once on the top of the rock, they received another task. Using the collected indicia, they were to form a radio message to call a MEDEVAC helicopter for an injured team mate evacuation. All communication was in English. The task was done on the rock after a physical activity, under a very stress situation and time pressure. Less than a half of the teams managed to complete the task.
God is in details. Even a pen failure caused a harm to a team. It happened when they needed to copy the indicia. The team members tried to remember the indicia but succeeded only partly. "We will take a pencil next time, it will work" commented one from the team.
The most physically demanding event of Winter Survival 2016, aside from the long moves, was picking large and heavy pieces from rough terrain. Close to Videlske Sedlo pass, the teams were tasked to recover five tyres of various size from the slope and move them on a truck bed. Limited by a 12-minute span and the mountaineering ropes, loops and carbines, it was their decision on how to move the tyres and lift them on the Tatra bed.
"We have participated in similar military competitions with various levels of difficulty. It is the first time for us to be here and we want to get experience first of all so that we get better prepared next time. We would like to come with two teams next year" said the captain Igor Praznik as the Slovenian team for 132 mountain regiment of Bohinjska Bela.
All four days and two nights the teams spent outdoor were significantly influenced by weather. Rain and considerable warming ruined the layer of snow even in places usually covered. The upper parts of the hills with sufficient snow on Monday showed only grass or pieces of ice on Thursday.
"When it is freezing, you burry in dry snow and are well in the morning. If like this, you are soaked wet and cannot dry anything. It's a pitty the nice winter weather changed for the worse right on Survival" repented Josef Zlamal for 73 tank battalion of Praslavice.
After the round march in wet snow, the soldiers went for a ski time trial from Videlsky Kriz to Svycarna chalet which meant approximately four kilometres uphill. Close to the three-day stage, searching for persons in avalanche took place under the Petrovy Kameny hill, a place with the rest of snow.
Arriving to the finish next to the military recreational facility of Ovčárna pod Pradědem that turns regularly into a safe haven for soldiers during the competition period, the teams faced the task of administering first aid to their fellows injured by a grenade explosion inside a building. The team members were to treat several serious injuries, such as thorax injury by fragments, upper/lower limbs devastating injuries, arterial bleeding, burns or facial lacerations. The models were masked by professionals and the event accomplishment was assessed by Czech military health service professionals. Authentically looking injuries made a large impact on competitors' psyche.
The last stage of the competition took place on Thursday with all sixteen teams continuing. The key to the stage was in fast and safe transport of an injured person. The teams had to cover several kilometres up to Praded hilltop first and then one of the team mates played the injured person while the other two transported him on a sledge or transport stretcher to Kurzovni Sporthotel, following the tourist route covered partly with melted snow and partly with ice.
Winter Survival 2016 winners are First Lieutenant Viktor Novotný, corporal Ivo Vrba and lance corporal Milan Wurst for the 7th mechanised brigade's team. "We are very very happy we won again. No Czech team has won three times in a row before and now we made it" reviews Ivo Vrba his team's performance. Silver medals were won by 73 tank battalion team and the Logistics Agency's team reached bronze medals.
The trophies to the winning teams were presented by the Chief of Czech General Staff Lieutenant General Josef Becvar, University of Defence rector-commandant Brigadier General Bohuslav Přikryl, 7th mechanised brigade commander Colonel Pavel Lipka and other representatives of the Czech forces and civilian entities. The ceremony took place in the Ovčárna pod Pradědem military recreation facility.
Author: Pavel Pazdera
WINTER SURVIVAL 2015: Several Doses of Extreme
“Watch the magazine! Shoot, now!” a voice vanishing in the roar of shooting spreads over the rocks in a valley near Vrbno pod Pradedem town as a team is in the middle of the most challenging event of those arranged for Winter Survival of the year. The key there is to check the military climbing skills and the ability of making decisions under stress.
“The event combines all: demanding ascent to a thirty-meter rock carrying a disassembled machine gun on the back, fast assembly of the gun despite the exhaustion and fire a shot, and then, when they think it’s over, another stressful task comes. Stress under the state of exhaustion shows whether the team works really as such, without chaos and with a leader” explains the referee, lieutenant colonel David Ullrich from the Physical Training and Sports Centre of the University of Defence.
Assembling the machine gun is not enough, a team mate “got blind”
The team for Military Police arrives to Pod Mlynskym Vrchem rock and take off the twenty-kilo rucksacks packed with the complete equipment to survive in the frozen mountains. They put on the harnesses and other mountaineering equipment and receive a machine gun, a tripod and box of cartridges from the organisers. They are to bring everything up but they need to overcome the slippery snow-covered wall.
Soldiers are cheering like they were at a sport match to support their team mates. “Go, Rosi, go” shouts one of them to lance corporal Karel Rozsypal. They move on two secured routes to reach the top in around five minutes. They do not rest and assemble the machine gun right after the demanding climbing. Tripod first, then they mount the gun on it and attach the cartridge belt.
Not as easy as pie when the hands shake with tiredness. Team leader first lieutenant Michal Škobrtal signals the gun is ready to fire. Thunderously shot blank cartridge proves it. A relaxed abseil and a short rest? No way! The referee tells the soldiers that one of them has got temporarily blind due to shot exhaust gas hit and they have to get the person down.
The “blind” role comes to Karel Rozsypal who gets ski goggles with opaque visor. The assurance from climbing up has gone. One of the team members is already down when Rosi rendered blind escorted by Michal Škobrtal start the way down. The escort cues Rozsypal where to step, where is snow, ice or a hole.
Everything goes fine. Still enough time to the deadline of fifteen minutes time limit. The blind soldier’s foot though slips at a moment and he gets bruised badly. So it seems from the distance. “It’s OK, come on” hisses the soldier. In a moment all three of them are down. Military policemen managed everything in the second best time. However, only eight teams out of fifteen we able to complete all at this checkpoint.
A True Resilience Test
Winter Survival 2015 took place in the Hruby Jesenik Mountains in the last week of January in the repeated arrangements of the University of Defence. Seventeen military teams coming from four Europe countries appeared there. The most numerous representation was that for the Czech military forces, out of which the largest part of eight teams was for the Land Forces. The international teams arrived from Germany, Poland and Slovakia. They were personnel of German special mountain warfare units and Poland’s Wroclaw and Slovak Liptovsky Mikulas academies’ students. Unfortunately, at the last moment Austrian teams for the 6th mountain brigade withdrew from the competition.
“Winter Survival participants went through a very challenging test of resilience. They were checked for the level of skills in special physical training, military training and their ability of making quick and correct decisions during the events” evaluate the four days competition director colonel Milan Marek. Most of them took their physical capacity and mental strength to the bottom during the three-day endurance stage. Only two teams withdrew from the competition due to injury.
Winter Survival 2015 included many kilometres to move over in rough terrain by map carrying all equipment necessary to survive and complete the events, military climbing on rocks, crossing water streams and manmade obstacles, special course with some parts requiring military skills and timed downhill skiing on prepared or free tracks, rescuing and evacuating a team member who played the role of an injured person, shooting military arms, two freezing nights spent in the woods, etc. Due to the lack of snow they were limited in moving on the skis. There were areas they had to add the skis to the carried backpacks the weight of which together with the equipment and food supplies necessary for the athletes to survive reached as much as 25 kilograms. Experienced participants managed to reduce the load to 15 to 18 kilograms.
A Good Night With Thermal Bandage
Another test of climbing skills and physical fitness for the soldiers was the “Case” event. The task of each team was to pass across four logs hanging one above the other between high trees. A case was hung above the top log to be filled with wooden blocks transported by the teams until the case overbalanced and touched the finish point. Time limit was twelve minutes.
The events keep increasing their ingenuity from year to year making considerable requirements of soldiers’ physical strength as well as their logical abilities. The championship has become reputable during the years of existence. The merits should be mostly given to the instructors of the Physical Training and Sports Centre of the University of Defence who go on to think up new and new events and implement the lessons learnt in military training and special physical training into the programme. The new feature in the last year was usage of ortophotomaps along with the usual topographic maps. The teams received an orthophotomap of an area in the mountains, i.e. a map made of merged aerial photos. Some of the teams were so off balance that took several kilometres more.
The participants have their tricks of how to survive a cold night in the open air. They do not pack heavy sleeping bags to carry all the time of the competition. “Those for winter conditions need a lot of space in the backpack. We try to make the equipment as light as possible. You may survive in this way, unless i tis twenty below zero. Just put a bottle of hot water inside and use good sleeping mats” said first lieutenant Viktor Novotný a member of 7th mechanised brigade team.
The popular thermal bandages, freely available in pharmacy shops, are the magic appearing in the recent years. Some participants apply the bandages on large muscle areas to keep them warm. Others use their own tricks. “What is best for me is to stick it on my soles of feet and toes. Warm feet make me feel good” said corporal Ivo Vrba, another 7mb team member.
Another Victory for Hranice’s Team
Winter Survival 2015 winners are First Lieutenant Viktor Novotný (74th light motorised battalion Bučovice), privates Ivo Vrba and Milan Wurst (73rd tank battalion Přáslavice) for the 7th mechanised brigade’s team. "We had the same team also last year and it gave us a great motivation. We are happy we eventually managed to win. Defending victory is always difficult” reviews Ivo Vrba his team’s performance.
“This morning we were only seventeen points ahead of the running-up Týniště. Thus, we simply had to win the last event despite very difficult skiing in the fresh snow. It was very hard but we did it" offers Viktor Novotný an insight in the fierce struggle for the first place.
Silver medals were won by First Lieutenant Michal Pech, Lance Corporal Miroslav Šroler and Private Jiří Juhas for the Ammunition Centre Týniště nad Orlicí. Lieutenant Ondřej Hrabánek, Lance Corporal Jakub Havel and Private Zdeněk Šroler for the 14th logistics support regiment Pardubice reached bronze medals.
The trophies to the winning teams were presented by the Chief of Czech General Staff General Petr Pavel, University of Defence rector-commandant Brigadier General Bohuslav Přikryl and other representatives of the Czech forces. The ceremony took place in the Ovčárna pod Pradědem military recreation facility that is the logistics base for the competition every year.
Author: Pavel Pazdera
A camo uniform-clad silhouette appeared above the Medvědí Vrch hilltop rock. Hesitating for a moment, maybe thinking about jumping down, it paused. Then, the soldier dived from the thirty-meter tall rock after all landing in the net spread ten metres above the ground level. He then crawled to the net edge and read the card giving his team a hint for the next leg of the competition.
Another participant in the 20th year of the International Winter Outdoor Polyathlon Championship of the Army of the Czech Republic Winter Survival 2014 just completed an event called a matching name of “Jump of Death” by the organisers. “It was an excellent jump. I closed my eyes and simply jumped. And did it” relieved the tension sergeant Gerwin Stangl for the Austian mountain brigade. However, before his jump all three members of the team had to climb the icy rock to the top. Following the ferrate they searched for the six hints while the seventh one was in the net.
Winter Survival 2014 took place in the Hruby Jesenik Mountains in the last week of January in the repeated arrangements of the University of Defence. Twenty military teams coming from five Europe countries competed there in the skills of surviving in the mountains in winter. The teams representing the Czech military forces were sent by the following units: 7th mechanised brigade from Hranice, 44th light motorised battalion from Jindřichův Hradec, 15th engineers regiment from Bechyně, 31st CBRN defence regiment from Liberec, 102nd reconnaissance battalion from Prostějov, 14th logistics support regiment from Pardubice, 24th transport air base from Prague, Ammunition Centre from Týniště nad Orlicí, Military Police from Prague and finally the University of Defence and the Military Physical Education and Sports chair at Charles University.
The international teams coming to participate in the most challenging event of the kind arrived from Austria, Belgium, Germany and Poland. They were personnel of Austrian and German special mountain warfare units, Belgian Commando Training Centre and Poland’s Wroclaw Military Academy of Land Forces.
THE WARM-UP ROUND
The snowshoe race opened the physical and mental strength challenge in Monday afternoon in the winter sports centre of Ovčárna pod Pradědem, taking place on the ice-clad slope under Petrovy Kameny Hill. Bound to a common rope the team members first ran uphill to the ski lift upper station and then another eight hundred but downhill to the finish. To get there, they had to cross obstacles in the form of fallen tree trunks, logs or a stake maze in the lower part of the race route. The first stage was most successful for the 7th mechanise brigade team followed by the Ammunition Supply Base team and the Military Police team.
Late in the afternoon on Monday, 27 January 2014 in front of Ovcarna pod Pradedem military recreation facility, the Jesenik protected area administration agency representative Michaela Pruknerová in the presence of the Deputy Chief of General Staff Major General Bohuslav Dvořák and University of Defence rector-commandant Bridagier General Bohuslav Přikryl lit the fire for the International Championships of the Czech Army in Winter Outdoor multi-event sport of Winter Survival 2014 during the opening ceremony. The Lord of the mountains Father Praděd came to welcome the participants supported by the witches of Petrovy Kameny rock getting appreciation from especially the foreign participants for such a stylish contribution.
True, the Military Winter Survival competition over the twenty years of its history has become a synonym for an extremely tough event; however, its main stage, the second one, is indeed a matter of survival. During two days, the teams, completely equipped for survival, have to cover more than forty kilometres through mountainous terrain and accomplish challenging tasks prepared by the instructors of the UD Physical Training and Sports Centre.
The extreme competition since the early Tuesday morning had been in the spirit of demanding marching across the ridges of the Hruby Jesenik Mountains and accomplishing tasks similar to individual or small team operation in snow-covered mountains, along a circle-shape route of rough profile with relatively considerable elevations. A good orienting ability is the key there. However, due to lack of snow the teams could not put their skis on.
“We are good at moving on skis. Now, we have to run and carry the skis on shoulders” complained Miroslav Šroler starting in the Ammunition Supply Centre of Týniště nad Orlicí. Soldiers missed the moments of rest during the fast downhill sections to the valleys.
Passing the course included accomplishing of special events designed to test their abilities, such as military climbing on rock or in tree tops, a snow-shoe biathlon race, military small arms shooting, a night paintball battle or administering first aid in the field.
The most challenging event of the second day of the competition was named “Totem”. First the athletes were to ascend on a full-grown tree almost all the way through the top and then they divided to advance climbing individually in different directions. One continued to the very top of the spruce tree to stand up straight on the board fastened at the height of thirty-seven metres and ringed the bell. Another one crawled along a vertical rope and the third team member used two vertically stretched ropes, one rope located parallel above the other, holding rope loops attached to the rope (the “Tram” obstacle). Time limit to accomplish this event was ten minutes.
“My hands froze when I climbed up the tree and then I could hardly hold the loops on the rope” said Vladislav Sklenár of a University of Dfence team. His teammate Jakub Pacina assessed the situation saying “Physical and mental fatigue check your resistance and professional readiness.”
THE ART OF MAKING GOOD DECISION
Another test of climbing skills and physical fitness for the soldiers was set out at the checkpoint with the “Jump of Death” event. All covered the track up the top of the thirty-metre high rock and collected predictors along the route and the following jump. Team total time was measured when the complete and correct code comprising 7 predictors was transmitted. Only eight of twenty teams managed to accomplish the task. The other teams either failed meeting the ten-minute limit or transmitted a wrong code.
“The point consists of several factors. One of them is physical fitness, psychological resistance for the jump itself and the most challenging is the ability of making a good decision under stressful situation. Halt and think, that’s it. Simply, arrange the predictors into the correct code” described the event referee lieutenant colonel David Ullrich the core of the event.
The events are challenging in requiring the soldiers perform both the physical part and thinking. Which is an uneasy task in such extreme situations. “You act rashly, afraid of making mistake in recording of reporting” added LTC Ullrich.
In the area of Videlské Sedlo Saddle the staff of the University of Defence Physical Training and Sports Centre arranged another event that required choosing a good strategy. The task was to use a rope and pull a Tatra 810 truck within the delimited area. The competitors could use the fixed point for pulling – a large tree. Overwhelming majority of the teams correctly fixed a pulley system and moved the truck by ten metres within the ten-minute time limit. Only both Polish and an Austrian team failed.
“We like the competition’s variability, which requires many skills. Similar competitions back in our country consist of the same events every year being thus easier to get ready for. Here, it is different from year to year,” said OR-4 Pascal Bigot of the Belgian Commando Training Centre team.
In another activity named “Biathlon” the soldiers ran several hundred metres with the snowshoes on and shot air rifles. Accurate shooting is seemingly natural for soldiers, though there were some who missed. It was difficult to calm down for aiming after fast running. Each of the competitors had three targets in the form of slightly blown balloons. “They have three shots and, if they miss, they get another two shots. If they still miss, they go for a penalty round” said the event referee Dan Zacha.
The teams used weapons in two more events during the competition. The first event took place in the hunting shooting range in Vrbno pod Pradědem. There, three types of weapons were used, particularly CZ 805 BREN assault rifle, automatic rifle Mk. 58 and pistol Mk. 82. The next event came late in the evening. Using night vision devices mounted on paintball weapons the teams were tasked to annihilate a sabotage team represented by moving targets.
In 2014 the teams spent only one night outdoor in their sleeping bags covered with isofoils or tent canvas sections. They began the morning in a two-round “obstacle course” event. On the fifty-metre course, the soldiers were to overcome low artificial obstacles and pull or move various loads. The goal was to complete all obstacles and be fast.
When done, the teams checked the equipment, read the right bearing from the map and went for another leg, which meant some more kilometres through rough terrain to the area where the two-day journey across the Hruby Jesenik Mountains might end. The arrival to the endurance stage end was spiced by the organisers with the “First Aid in the Field” activity.
At the parking place next to the military recreational facility of Ovčárna pod Pradědem that turns regularly into a safe haven for soldiers during the competition period, the teams faced the task of administering first aid to their fellows injured by a grenade explosion inside a building. The team members were to treat several serious injuries, such as thorax injury by fragments, upper/lower limbs devastating injuries, arterial bleeding or facial lacerations. The models were masked by a Red Cross personnel and the event accomplishment was assessed by Czech military health service professionals. Authentically looking injuries made a large impact on competitors’ psyche. After treatment done, the teams then were to call for medical expert help.
The standings after two stages ranked first the team for the 7 mechanised brigade Hranice, followed by the Ammunition Supply Centre Týniště nad Orlicí team and the team representing the 14 regiment of logistics support Pardubice.
The very last stage of the competition consisted of a skicross race – a three-round elimination event. The athletes started by fours in two different tracks. The first and second places advanced to the second round and similarly the first and second places in the semifinals qualified the winners and runner-up for the third round. The downhill race took place on the iced slope behind the Figura Hotel in a heavy fog and strong wind. “They really went as fast as possible which is no piece of cake if you consider the visibility of just a few metres” said the chief referee Jan Migdau in the finish area. The best skicross racers were the teams for Týniště, Jindřichův Hradec and Mittenwald (Germany).
HRANICE TEAM WINS
The 20th Army of the Czech Republic International Outdoor Polyathlon Winter Survival 2014 winners are first lieutenant Viktor Novotný (74 light infantry battalion Bučovice), Lcpl Ivo Vrba and 1Pt Milan Wurst (73 tank battalion Přáslavice) in the team for the 7 mechanised brigade. “We’ve collected many points for fast movements and for the climbing events. We had a good motivation and we are glad that we won this year. We’d worked hard since the very start and also were lucky” summarised 1Lt Viktor Novotný his team’s result.
After fierce struggle for the second place, the silver medals were won by 1Lt Michal Pech, Sgm Miroslav Šroler and Sgt Jiří Juhas for the Ammunition Supply Centre in Týniště nad Orlicí. Lt Ondřej Hrabánek, Ssg Jakub Havel and Sgt Zdeněk Šroler for the 14 regiment of logistic support Pardubice reached the well-deserved bronze medals.
The trophies to the winning teams were presented by the Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Petr Pavel, University of Defence rector-commandant Brigadier General Bohuslav Přikryl and 7th mechanised brigade commander Colonel Josef Kopecký. The ceremony took place in the Ovčárna pod Pradědem military recreation facility attended by the representatives of the Czech military forces, University of Defence, invited civilian guests and those who participated in the beginnings of the unique competition.
“You were facing extremely challenging events and had to prove your physical fitness and mental strength under harsh mountain conditions, along with military practice skills vital to survive under extreme outdoor conditions. Team work was also crucial at the same time. Only one can win but all teams who finished may rightfully feel winning, though” told lieutenant general Petr Pavel the teams during the ceremony. The Chief of General Staff also appreciated that nineteen teams arrived to finish without any serious accident. “I would like to thank the competition organisers and the crew of Ovčárna resort for their masterful performance in the preparations and during the jubilee twentieth Winter Survival” said general Pavel, too.
Surprisingly for the organisers, as many as nineteen out of the twenty teams were able to complete the entire championship. Only the Military Police team withdrew for health problems because a team member suffered a knee injury early during the snowshoes race and the growing pain prevented him from further moving in terrain.
It is the University of Defence that deserves the most credits for Winter Survival 2014 arrangements. “It has been a challenge and an honour for us to hold the Winter Survival championships over the years. We can consider this year of the anniversary a success. For the year of the twentieth anniversary of this unique event we had a meeting of the Czech military forces representatives and the championship organisers with those who witnessed its beginning. There were many things to remember and recall” noted the championship sport director Colonel Petr Hanak, the University of Defence Physical Training and Sports Centre Director.
Colonel Josef Trojan from his competition director’s point added: “Such an international event would hardly be possible to prepare and run without a proactive attitude and initiative paid by all the engaged units and individuals interested in well done arrangements and course of the entire event. Our great thanks should go to all who have contributed in the competition preparations that had lasted more than half a year. I would like to point out the military and civilian personnel of the Physical Training and Sports Centre, steward crew, championship office, media team, technical support including the students and drivers. I cannot forget to mention here other units of the Army of the Czech Republic, such as the 34th Communication and Information Systems Base, Military Geography and Hydrometeorology Institute’s experts, medical crew of Brno or the drivers of the Land Forces command. Last but not least should be mentioned the positive approach of all staff members headed by the director Jiří Julínek of the Ovčárna facility that has become a base for us in this week.”
Author: Pavel Pazdera
WINTER SURVIVAL 2013 – Several Doses of Extreme
Being a good skier, climber, shooter or having a long race runner is not enough there. If you and your mates want to be successful in the competition you have to show more than that. What is the secret ingredience? Well, you will definitely find out on the way if you miss it.
It is short to half past three on the twenty-seventh of January afternoon and fifty-seven nervous competitors with the skis put on stamp their feet next to the Mountain Rescue Service station in the Ovcarna pod Pradedem ski areal. In a few seconds the military winter polyathlon competition with the highest prestige opens its next, actually nineteenth, chapter. The competition is hosted and arranged by the General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic and by the University of Defence.
WARM UP ROUND
The first stage of the competition brings the six-nation group of soldiers into fast off-road moving in mountains which includes cross-country run uphill to the Praded top followed by a downhill leg along the tourist marked track to the Barborka chalet. This rated event brought to the lead the Tyniste Ammunition Base team prosecuted by the teams for the 73 tank battalion Přáslavice and Military Police.
The official opening ceremony of the Czech Military Open Winter Outdoor Polyathlon Championships takes place in front of the Ovčárna pod Pradědem military recreation facility late afternoon. The first deputy chief of Czech Army General Staff Major General Miroslav Žižka lights the championships fire in the course of the ceremony. “You will have to prove high level of abilities and skills in special physical training as well as fast individual will and sense of team work. Of course, only the best can win, but all teams able to finish may feel themselves winners,” says general Žižka in his opening address and wishes the teams good luck.
THE SNAG OF RESCUING A PARACHUTIST
True, the Military Winter Survival competition has become a synonym for an extremely tough event; however, its main stage, the second one, is indeed a matter of survival. During two and a half days, the teams, completely equipped for survival, have to cover more than sixty kilometres through mountainous terrain of the Hruby Jesenik Mountains and accomplish various survival tasks prepared by the instructors of the UD Physical Training and Sports Centre.
The second day of the extreme competition since the early morning had been in the spirit of demanding marching across the ridges of the Hruby Jesenik Mountains and accomplishing tasks similar to individual or small team operation in snow-covered mountains. A good orienting ability is the key there. Passing the course includes accomplishing of special climbing test on rock or in tree tops, water stream crossing, artificial obstacles, orienteering, submachine gun shooting, dummy grenade precision throwing, rescuing a paratrooper tangled in trees, injured person evacuation and spending two nights in the woods.
An event of the most challenging ones within the endurance stage named “parachutist” consists of military climbing features. Race organisers had arranged a test of climbing skills and of the ability of making fast decisions resulting in completed task at a place near Videlské sedlo area. The teams are tasked to safely lower the parachutist hung stuck in the high trees down to the ground and move him to the marked area.
“Come on, cut it, now! We’ve got no time” words resonate in the wood as a team member spin on the rope above the “unconscious body” among trees. The task seems to be less easy as it looked like. And less than half of the teams manage the event in the eight-minute limit.
Two team members first climb high on two trees to spread a rope above the parachutist. Ski alpinist shoes slide on the frozen trunks. One member then gets down to the parachutist on the rope being belayed by the other two. The rescuer first fasts the parachutist’s body to his and only then may reach for the knife to disengage the parachutist and then slowly and safely lower to the ground.
Here is an athlete’s opinion for all: "We managed to do it all in three minutes," said captain Michal Pech of the favoured Ammunition Base’s team and his teammate Chief Warrant Officer Milan Menzel added: "The key was to think out the procedure of accomplishing the event. We came to the solution just an hour ago on the way to this point."
Everybody rechecks the equipment, reads the map and then go on moving along more kilometres through the impassable terrain to the place determined for overnight. The first teams arrive there around 5PM. As tents are forbidden, the teams hurry to make their impromptu shelters, make food, drinks and are ready to sleep. The three-member military teams fall asleep knowing the finish is still very far and the next night will be spent in the snow too. Fortunately, thermometers make them favour this time.
Cruel frost usual in other times in the Jesenik Mountains is replaced by risen temperature in these days. Melting snow gets soft and heavy, difficult for walking and disappears fast. “Frost is super. You get up dry in the morning. Now, we are all soaked wet“ describes SGT Jan J. of a University of Defence team.
“The competition this year is very difficult primarily because of long movement legs in melting snow and also because of changing weather checking them out thoroughly. Wet weather means discomfort in outdoor sleeping. High humidity is worse than dry cold” considers Jan Migdau the competition from chief referee’s point of view.
In some places the soldiers rather ford through snow sludge than run on the skis. A team arrives to a rock at which probably the most challenging event of the four days awaits them. Team members take off the skis and walk up the hill on an extremely slippery path. “We’ve been quite bad so far, not looking for the podium” says Ladislav Sás representing the 73rd tank battalion who ranked third the previous year.
“Spider Web” is an apt name for this event. Spread among the tall trees, hanging some 30 metres high, there is a true web woven of mountaineering ropes. All team members first cross a cross-hung log from the rock to the web. The next obstacle is a level-oriented rope net – the web – with three cards containing progression indicia. Either all members may collect the cards or one while the others wait on the web edge. Most teams succeed in the time limit of twelve minutes.
“Rather than do it as fast as possible it is better to think about it and find a suitable solution. The events this year offer more ways than one to be accomplished and a good decision may gain a lot to the team” explains the competition referee Lieutenant Colonel David Ullrich.
“What we like here is the competition is variable and requires a lot of skills. Similar competitions back in our country consist of the same events every year and they are thus easier to prepare for. It is different every time. Our predecessors were winning here but our ambitions are not as high. All we want is to finish and learn some experience” says Austrian team leader First Lieutenant Georg Schiener for the 6th mountain brigade Absam.
This year Winter Survival marks the highest ever number of international participants counting seven teams. They compete for German and Austrian mountain units, a Belgian Commandos battalion and the students of military universities in Wroclaw, Poland, and Liptovský Mikuláš, Slovakia.
During the day teams face more events, such as forest orienteering run or water crossing after arrival in the day finish. The latter again requires choosing a proper strategy. The tired soldiers are to get on the opposite bank of a water stream “dry” and transport their backpacks and an injured soldier model on stretchers.
HRADEC FACULTY STUDENTS RUN UP
The final combat shooting event is no less easier for the teams. The event taking place in the hills above the small town of Vrbno pod Pradědem checks shooting skills. Good luck helps.
Morning sun reluctantly casts the beams glistering in the remains of snow patches. Three figures wearing weapons appear on the horizon. They progress down the valley in a measured pace. The task is to get to the other edge of the field. When they are half the way through, they are surprised with a sudden fire coming from the nearby forest. “Hide behind the bank, behind the bank” shouts one of the men shooting back. All of them managed to find cover of the earthen bank.
“Go!” Few more shots fired and they set off running across the open space. At that moment one of them is hit. Fortunatelly, the hit does not make him fall down. He just raises hands to signal he is out.
Armed with the old automatic rifles Sa-58, the three-member teams are to make it through approximately a half-kilometre route facing an enemy attack. They should knock out as many enemies as possible either with or without the weapons avoiding getting hurt. And the star of the event is the tactical battle simulator MILES.
The two-side shooting exercise cannot deprive the Ammunition Base team from the total victory, though. The team of Captain Michal Pech, WOII Milan Menzel and CPL Miroslav Šroler defends the victory of the last Winter Survival.
After fierce struggle for the second place, the silver medals were won by staff sergeant Václav Mařák, sergeant Pavel Smejkal and corporal Richard Dvořák for the Faculty of Military Health Sciences of the University of Defence and captain Zdeněk Střeštík, captain Karel Raděj and lieutenant Michal Škobrtal for Military Police team reached the well deserved bronze medals. The university staff outdid the military policemen by mere two points.
“We hoped in a place in the first ten not imagining running up. We did a number of climbing activities together and we are involved in natural survival events” says Pavel Smejkal in a happy voice.
The trophies to the winning teams were presented by the Chief of Czech General Staff Lieutenant General Petr Pavel, deputy Minister of Defence for personnel matters Michael Hrbata, University of Defence rector-commandant colonel Bohuslav Přikryl and other representatives of General Staff and Czech forces.
Overwhelming majority of nineteen teams managed to finish the championship which surprised the organisers. Only two teams withdrew – one for 2nd Commandos battalion of Flawinne, Belgium, and the other for 131st artillery battalion of Jince. It is a change compared to previous year when less than half of the teams were able to get to finish.
It is the University of Defence that deserves the most credits for Winter Survival 2013 arrangements that had lasted more than half a year, causing positive answers and reactions, especially from the international participants. A significant portion of effort to bring that sports event to success that contributes to Czech military image both home and abroad was done by the staff of University’s Physical Training and Sports Centre, Logistics division and PR office, the Brno based Simulation and Training Technology Centre, Ovčárna pod Pradědem recreation facility, Joint Forces Command’s signal technicians, Military Geography and Hydrometeorology Institution experts and the University’s contributing students and staff.
The burden of hundreds of minor work lay on the organising committee’s shoulders led by University of Defence deputy rector colonel. Josef Trojan who is already thinking of what improvements should be done to the jubilee of the 20th Winter Survival. It is an event bringing a new dimension to military sport and an excellent opportunity of presentation for the University of Defence.
Author: Pavel Pazdera
Most Challenging Survival Competition
Excellent but bitterly cold weather and picturesque landscape but challenging events awaited the participants in the eighteenth Czech military championship of Winter Survival 2012. It took place in the Hruby Jesenik Mountains from 30 January till 3 February. In the competition, truly considered the most challenging one of all held by the Czech forces only eight of 17 teams were able to complete.
The University of Defence in cooperation with the Czech General Staff arranged the already traditional international competition in the form of an exercise simulating three-member military teams operation in winter mountains environment. The competition thus included adrenalin-boosting outdoor sport events along with activities similar to individual or team actions during battle. Entries to the competition were sent for fourteen Czech military teams and three international teams coming from Belgium and Poland.
It is more than a purely competing event, it proves that practice makes perfect. Team members face any obstacle that might occur during battle in winter mountains with many arranged by Physical Training and Sports Centre staff and the other by Mother Nature.
Competition scope remained unchanged despite the opening on Monday evening, later in comparison to the previous years. The first leg of ten kilometres walking to the first open air overnight followed by another one spent in sleeping bags in snow holes, two entire days full of demanding movements through deep snow across Hruby Jesenik Mountains ridges carrying all of the compulsory equipment, completing challenging events, a slalom race and individual cross-country race on the last day. Simply, a busy agenda from the start to the end.
The most challenging event on Tuesday was the event named “Rock” included military climbing skills. The teams faced a real climbing and physical fitness test on Skalnatý Hill (821 metres).
Their task was to climb up a twenty-metre high rock with all carried equipment within thirteen minutes. They could choose whether they keep the backpacks and skis on during climbing or bind them together and pull up on a rope to the rock top. All the teams managed to cover the marked route to the top, either with or without equipment. However, many of the teams whose choice was to transport the backpacks on a rope, faced problems when pulling up.
For example, the University of Defence Team I failed to get the backpacks and skis on the rock within the time limit. “We couldn´t pull´em over the edge, it got stuck there,” said Daniel Buršík in a sad voice. He was very sorry for the points lost in the event.
HEAVY FROST RACE
And so was the entire competition. The teams moved several kilometres in snow and then, exhausted, they had to mobilise the power remains for the event, such as injured team mate transport on stretchers, or climb up the ice cataract with stream cleats on and an ice-axe in hand, balance on a log and straps high in tree tops or showing dexterity, endurance or martial art skills.
The competition took place under severe frost. Temperature varied around fourteen degrees Celsius below zero during days to fall down to minus 22 degrees at night. However, no one of the participating soldiers complained of cold or overnight in snow. “We don´t care of freezing cold, but moving across mountains is really demanding. We are quite running out of power” confessed lieutenant Viktor Novotný for 73rd tank battalion team. “The night was fine, we even unzipped our sleeping bags. The snow hole we dug out was quite warm with the sack and sleeping bags” described SGT Jakub Pacina for University of Defence Team One the first night out.
No complaint came of the second night either. “How we survived the night and cold? Just the military sleeping bag and a few warming push-ups before falling asleep were enough” said SGT Karel Balcar for another University of Defence team representing the Faculty of Military Health Sciences. His team had to withdraw due to one team member health problems but he and his team mate SGT Pavel Smejkal finished the competition anyway, but unclassified.
The events were arranged so that the competition participants had to prove their ability in typical military skills as well as general, such as saving human life, i.e. administering first aid.
A test of that type was arranged in Veronika chalet next to Ovcarna facility. After arrival in the three-day stage finish the soldiers were tasked to administer first aid to persons injured by a grenade blast. The team members were to treat several serious injuries, such as open pneumothorax, devastating upper limbs injury, arterial bleeding or deep lacerated wounds in face. The models were masked by a Red Cross personnel and event accomplishment was assessed by Czech military health service professionals. Authentically looking injuries made a large impact on competitors’ psyche.
“Talk, talk! Talk to us,” was heard at the chalet with simulated grenade blast where teams evacuated the victims from the desolated structure. “Tourniquet! Gimme a tourniquet!” were competitors’ voices saying, full of nervousness from referees’ eyes watching every movement.
TÝNIŠTĚ TEAM WINS
The 18th Army of the Czech Republic International Outdoor Polyathlon Winter Survival 2012 winner is the team for Týniště nad Orlicí Ammunition Base. "We were less successful in the first two days and I did not believe in such a success. Of course we are hilarious we won. The competition was extremely difficult in this year," summarised CWO Menzel his team’s performance.
After fierce struggle for the second place, the silver medals were won by the Military Police team and 73 tank battalion Přáslavice team reached the well deserved bronze medals. The difference between these two teams was a mere single point.
“We did our best but we lacked power, it is simple,” said lieutenant Viktor Novotný on behalf of Praslavice’s team after the race. The final downhill and cross-country skiing legs were supposed to shuffle the podium positions, as Novotný was the leader in the Czech long distance race tour. “After the two demanding days in the mountains my tour mates would beat me by far today,” added lieutenant Novotný.
The trophies to the winning teams were presented by Director of Force Development Division – Operation Division brigadier general Bohuslav Dvořák, deputy commander of Joint Forces and AF commander brigadier general Jiri Verner and University of Defence rector-commandant brigadier general (retired) Rudolf Urban.
It is the University of Defence that deserves the most credits for Winter Survival 2012 arrangements that had lasted more than half a year, causing positive answers and reactions, especially from the international participants. A significant portion of effort to bring that sports event to success that contributes to Czech military image both home and abroad was done by the staff of University’s Physical Training and Sports Centre and logisticians, the Brno based Simulation and Training Technology Centre, Ovčárna pod Pradědem recreation facility, Joint Forces Command’s signal technicians and University’s students and staff. The burden of hundreds of minor work laid on the organising committee’s shoulders led by University of Defence deputy rector colonel Ing. Josef Trojan.
“Organising Winter Survival has been a quest of ours for a long time. This year event may be marked successful without hesitation. With an easy conscience I say it was well prepared, arranged and run even under challenging conditions. These were financial limits and then the heavy frost during the championship that worried us. Fortunatelly, in vain. The sportsmen showed a high level of readiness and did not get trapped. They deserve high credits for their excellent performance” appraised competition sport director colonel Petr Hanák the event of 2012.
Author: Pavel Pazdera