Warrant Officer Jeff Kula’s arms looked like they had been dragged through a barbed-wire fence. His shirt was torn from wrist to elbow. He was covered with dirt. But the soldier, who is from the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Ky., was smiling Friday.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Lambert, center, congratulates winners of the Best Special Forces Team Competition during the Special Forces Anniversary Reunion picnic at Paradise Acres. The winning team, which is from Fort Campbell, Ky., had just returned from Afghanistan.
The winning members of the team included: Kula, Sgt. 1st Class Lee Hutchinson, Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Johnson, Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Julius, Staff Sgt. Eric Turk and Staff Sgt. Bryan Viera.
That’s because he and his A-team had just won the Special Forces Best Team Competition.
‘‘It was one of the most god- awful things I have ever done,’’ he said of the competition. ‘‘We were going up grades that were ungodly. We were crawling up hills at times on all fours.’’
He said his team ran out of water and members had to get IVs. They ran out of those, too. He and his men almost had to pull out.
But finally — after 72 hours in the bush, marching with 75-pound packs up and down 40 kilometers of mountains in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest — Kula was standing in front of hundreds of retired Special Forces soldiers.
Some were winners of the Medal of Honor. Some were prisoners of war in conflicts long ago.
Many wanted to take a picture with him and his team.
‘‘You guys smell good to me,’’ said retired Col. Roger Donlon, a Medal of Honor winner, as he posed for a photo with the grimy team members.
Many members of Kula’s team were just back from fighting in Afghanistan. But they managed to train for the event anyway. It culminated at the Special Forces 50th Anniversary Reunion Celebration, which was held at Paradise Acres south of Fayetteville.
The competition included numerous tests.
They didn’t shoot by going out to a range and comfortably laying behind sandbags.
‘‘They had to run up one side of a mountain to a range and, with their pistol and rifle, shoot at targets and see how many they can knock down,’’ said Sgt. Maj. Charlie Blake.
Retired Col. Aaron Bank
gets an ovation, above, at the Special Forces 50th Anniversary Banquet.
Maj. Gen Geoffrey Lambert
is at left and Bank’s wife, Catherine, is at right.
Bank is credited with being the founder of Special Forces.
There were medical tasks and finger-printing tests.
Teams were tested on basic infantry leadership skills.
They also had to be sharp on land navigation.
Each team got about 31/2 hours of sleep per night. The entire competition lasted 51/2 days and included a parachute jump.
‘‘They all had such good attitudes,’’ Blake said. ‘‘A bunch of tough guys.’’
The winning team got medals, a certificate for a new pistol and a trophy of a bronze Special Forces soldier.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Lambert, commander of U.S. Army Special Forces, said the soldiers who competed were solid troops who had earned the respect of the entire Green Beret community.
‘‘You are better than we ever were,’’ Lambert said.
By J.S. Newton, Staff writer, The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer
Staff photo by Ethan Hyman and J.S. Newton