I’ve mentioned in a few posts about GORUCK events that I have completed or are planning on completing in the future. I thought that just like a Race Recap, I would give you an AAR of my most recent GORUCK event, which was a GORUCK Light in Columbus, Ohio. This wasn’t a “special event,” but just your standard run-of-the-mill Light. Keep in mind that just like every race (even the same course) is different, so is every GORUCK event. GORUCK events are led by Cadre who are Special Forces veterans assigned with the tasks of teaching you teamwork, leadership and communication. The Cadre utilize their own training and personal experiences to shape each event. Now the Light (according to HQ) is 4-5 hours covering 7-10 miles, and is an introductory event. I’ve had an event last barely 4 hours, and one that lasted (slightly) over 6 hours. How long an event lasts really depends on what the Cadre have planned and how well you perform as a team and meet your time hacks.

Just like a race, the hardest part is signing up. It helps if you have friends, but that’s not a requirement. Many individuals have shown up and completed events. There are no first or last place finishers. Everyone who signs up and shows up to the event builds one team. A GORUCK event is not a competition. The second hardest part is showing up for an event. But in between you have to train. GORUCK offers a 6-week training plan on their website. My personal training plan for a Light involves throwing some weight in my ruck and into my car and driving to the Starting Point; I feel if I am in good physical condition then I should be able to complete a Light. A Challenge is estimated to be a 10-12 hour event covering 15-20 miles and requires a bit more prep, such as more time spent with my ruck. There’s never any harm to throwing in some military style physical training; think pushups, flutter kicks, shoulders to over head, burpees, bear crawls, crab walks, duck walks, low crawls, inch worms.


Next up in prepping for a GORUCK event is the packing list. Think of it like getting your race day gear together. Basically it boils down to a ruck with a designated amount of weight, some water, your ID, cab fare, a headlamp with extra batteries, a reflective belt, plus there needs to be a team weight and an American flag. The team weight is dependent on which event it is; for the Light we used a 15lb weight. Sometimes Cadre will designate additional items they require you to carry, such as another team designated flag. The weight in your ruck is also dependent on which event you are participating in; for the Light it is 2 bricks if you’re under 150 lbs and 4 if you’re over, or 10lb of sand if you’re under and 20lbs if you’re over. But my last two Lights I’ve used a 25# steel plate for weight.

My personal packing list for a Light is very different from a Challenge. Typically during a Light, once you start, you don’t stop so there’s no reason to over-pack with items you’ll never get a chance to use. Although during a Challenge, there’s never a guarantee you’ll get a break or one long enough to open your ruck either.

For this Light, I used my Ranger Green GR0.

  • 25lb steel plate for weight, attached to the inner MOLLE with two straps
  • 1 yoga block in the bottom of my ruck to help stabilize the weight at the top
  • A 2L Source Bladder for hydration; 3L is recommended for a Challenge but I’ve never drank more than 1L during an event
  • Sea to Summit Dry Bags to keep extra clothes dry; I double-bagged everything
  • An Under Armour Fleece Hoodie as an extra layer in case I got cold after the sunset; this gets double-bagged in two 8L Sea to Summit Dry Bags
  • A Marmot ROM Jacket which is a soft shell jacket that is windproof and water-resistant; this gets double-bagged in two 4L Sea to Summit Dry Bags
  • A Pelican case for my phone and car key fob; it isn’t waterproof so it goes in a 4L Sea to Summit Dry Bag
  • My ID and $30 Cash (because it’s required) and my credit card in case the Class went to a bar after; these go in a ziploc baggie in the upper inner pocket of my ruck, double-bagged of course
  • A Petzl Tactikka Plus headlamp, which I also use for running at night; this gets packed in the upper inner pocket of my ruck too
  • 1 QT Ziploc bag with hand sanitizer, some peppermint candies, and a Luna Bar which is packed in the outer front pocket; typically you don’t need to eat during a Light, but it sucks when everyone else has munchies and you don’t have any!
  • 2 Black Diamond 18mm Climbing Runners (120cm Length) in the outer front pocket of my ruck
  • A pair of Mechanix Gloves in the outer front pocket of my ruck
  • 1 Carabiner attached to the MOLLE on the front of my ruck
  • 1 Reflective Belt around my ruck
  • 1 Nite Ize SpotLit attached to a zipper pull; it has a strobe feature which is great for after sunset

For a Challenge, I usually have 1-2 pairs of extra socks, maybe an extra shirt, my first aid/foot care kit and some Tylenol and Advil, and more food. I use ziploc bags to organize my stuff but I don’t rely on it for waterproofing, because that’s not it’s purpose. Dry bags are meant for keeping your stuff dry, so when it doubt go with a dry bag versus a ziploc bag. A strobe light isn’t required, but it provides extra safety at night. The climbing runners also aren’t required but they can be useful to make straps or handles when trying to carry awkward loads; some people carry webbing to serve the same purpose. People sometime question the headlamp, especially with an event that is only supposed to last 4-5 hours and may be over before the sun sets. Keep in mind, there is a saying “under promise, over deliver” and that happens at events often. Never expect to be done by a certain time, and always be prepared to be safe. My primary packing tip is to ask yourself “Can I survive the next 6 hours of my life without this?” if the answer is yes, then leave it behind.


Dressing for an event heavily depends on the weather. For a race, often you think about stripping down as you warm up, but for a GORUCK event if you’re still going after sunset, you might want to be putting on more clothes. At mid-40s, partly cloudy and a 5:58pm sunset, this Light was all about layers. So I started out wearing:

I try to dress for an event like I’m going backpacking. My undergarments are the same for running because I know they won’t chaff. Next, I want a comfortable base layer that will wick sweat but still keep me warm. Water resistant or repellant outer layers are also a great.


Before the Light, I woke up around 7:30am and ran 10 miles (it is half marathon training season after all). I ate Raisin Cane’s Chicken Fingers for Lunch and hydrated. At 1:30pm, a group of us slowly started to grow at the Tuttle Park baseball fields, which was the designated Start Point. Once Cadre Matt S showed up and GRL Class #618 got started. You can learn a lot about how the event is going to go from how they introduce themselves and lay out the rules for the event. Cadre Matt was very laid back and emphasized the team-building aspect of the event. After the welcome speech, the Welcome Party began. Lucky for us the snow had melted and gave us a field of mud to play in. We learned our first lesson as a team. As a GRT, you can do two things: sit back and let the newbies learn, or lead. Early on, I feel it’s best to let them learn, because that’s how you build a team, you learn together. If someone hands you the answers, you learn nothing.

Once we were covered in mud from head to toe, Cadre Matt introduced the next task and gave us a time hack. We had to get our casualties up to the Helipad for a Medevac. Being a small female, I more often end up being a casualty than carrying one. After making our time hack, we moved to the OSU ROTC building for our next assignment. After successfully completing that our team leader was fired, and I was appointed TL. My mission was to get us to a specified location (because my big mouth knew where it was) carrying some extra weight. As TL, I had to make sure that every one made it safely as a group moving in a formation and meeting our time hack. Since we were now on OSU’s campus, I also had to make sure our class moved in such a manner to allow pedestrians to share the sidewalks. I took attempted to take two short cuts from the route Cadre had planned, the first one was denied, but the second one I was able to squeeze off before he could stop it. Once we made it to our destination, we were given a break. I ate my Luna bar and threw on my Half-Zip. Being covered in mud, made me a little cold. During this short downtime, teammates adjusted their rucks and gear, some of which had issues with muddy zippers. Others suffered hydration malfunctions, with bit valves falling off and bladders springing leaks. I thankfully was okay.

Soon we were on our way in our next movement; I was fired as TL and another one appointed. And then our surprise came. After finishing the movement, Cadre Matt divided us into two teams and sent us on a Scavenger Hunt. This is a Light event, and it’s supposed to be fun but not easy. We were given a time hack and told that the losing team would pay. We jogged most of the hunt in order to meet our time hack, but we thoroughly enjoyed this mission. As soon as the Scavenger Hunt ended, we were on to our next team movement, which involved lunges and bear crawls. Apparently Cadre Matt is known for his love of stairs and the torture he can inflict with them. I will leave this up to your imagination. But Cadre Matt knew I ran 10 miles that morning, and was laughing at me the whole time. Nonetheless, we finished, survived and made our time hack.

Two more movements later and we had casualties again. This time I was “awake” which makes for a very bad casualty. Supposedly dead girls aren’t supposed to talk, and I was trying to give the TL short cuts and just joking around for most of the movement, which ended at the start point. Now the tunnel of love isn’t an event staple but many Cadre will make you do it, and in the mud we did. And then we got patched and the event was over. A group of us, including Cadre Matt, hung out in the parking lot after the event for about an hour, before people peeled off to eat, go to the bar, or me who just wanted to shower. One thing I will suggest is to keep a garbage bag or three in your car for your muddy or wet gear to include your ruck, and to shed as many layers (or even changing your clothes) before getting in your car.


For those of you who have done an event may think that this was a very vague AAR. And I’ll agree. This isn’t aimed for GRTs. GRTs know what to expect and would appreciate a critique on an event. This AAR is geared towards newbs who haven’t done an event yet.

An AAR (after action review) has a process. We discuss what was supposed to happened, what did happened, what can we improve and what should we sustain. I always encourage 3 sustains and 3 improves, but it’s not necessary.

What was supposed to happen: “an introduction to team-based training found in Special Operations.” Typically there are issues building a team, which the Cadre will help guide you through.

What did happen: 15 people built a team. We communicated well and didn’t have an issues that would have impeded team movements.

What we can improve: I hate to say this but we had some PT studs in this crew, and I think we could’ve been pushed harder, but there is a fine line between a Challenge and a Light.

What we should sustain: The scavenger hunt! It gave you the illusion that you were getting a “break” but you ended up pushing yourself the entire time instead. Also, we performed really well as a team, which made for an easier event.


This wasn’t my easiest event, but it was one of the most enjoyable. I regret not doing the Challenge the night before, despite the cold weather. I am happy, however, that I did get a cold(ish) weather event under my belt. The Light gave me a basic idea of what I need to work on to prep for the Heavy in March. I’m still on the fence about the Heavy, which is the 24 hour event, but I have 4 weeks to prepare.

I found GORUCK while looking for a new military-style backpack. I realized they did events and followed a Selection online. I knew Selection wasn’t for me, but I decided I wanted to do a Challenge. It took 1-2 years before signing up, but I’m glad I finally did it. For me, it’s a way to get out of my comfort zone, push myself, and test my limits. I’ve met a lot of amazing people during events.

QUESTION: How do you get out of your comfort zone and test your limits?

Thanks for reading!





4 Replies to “GORUCK AAR”

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