Story by Pfc. Andrew Badeen, Public Affairs Office, Georgia Department of Defense
The Georgia Army National Guard was declared champion of the second annual Adjutant General’s Defenders Cup competition, which pitted teams from the Georgia Army Guard, Georgia Air Guard and Georgia State Defense Force against one another in a friendly head-to-head-to-head competition of strength, fortitude and aptitude.
While the State Defense Force won the first Defenders Cup last year, this year’s Army Guard team came back with a vengeance. This was the Air Guard’s first appearance at the Cup competition.
Competition throughout the day was fierce between the three teams, but it was ultimately the Army Guard team that took first place in each of the three overall events, winning the coveted Defenders Cup by a landslide. The Air Guard team, which had performed consistently throughout the day, came in second.
“Collectively, we were able to pool our strengths and overcome our weaknesses in each event to come out on the top. This victory came from our team work,” said Spc. Carlton Westbrook. As Georgia’s 2012 Soldier of the year, he was one of the 12 hand-picked Soldiers selected by each of the Army Guard’s five major commands that comprised “Team Patriot.”
Army Guard team captain, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Gann of the 122nd Regional Training Institute, led the Patriots to an overall victory. While many in the team were strangers to one another, they competed exceptionally well together, says Gann. “The Army Guard squad worked flawlessly as a team, and was able to take home the victory,” he said.
“We had people from across the state, most of whom did not know each other until the night before the competition. We came together from different job skills and different walks of life,” Gann explained. “We just meshed really well and pushed each other all the way through. Everyone really put forth a 110 percent effort, and were all very determined to take the cup home this year,” he added.
This year’s Defenders Cup competition consisted of a modified physical fitness test, the tug-of-war and a round robin activity made up of four separate events. For each category, the first place team was awarded 50 points, second place 25 points, and third place 10 points.
The physical fitness test was divided into a 1.5-mile run, 15 minutes of sit-ups and 15 minutes of push-ups. The Patriots got out to an early lead by completing 1,434 push-ups and 951 sit-ups in their respective 15-minute blocks. The Air Guard team put up quite a fight with their own mark of 1,356 push-ups and 905 sit-ups, while the SDF – which only mustered seven team members at the offset of the competition – stayed alive with 1,073 push-ups and 663 sit-ups.
In the 1.5 mile run, the Army Guard increased its lead with an impressive run of 10 minutes, 47 seconds. Trailing not too far behind was the Air Guard with a time of 12 minutes, 30 seconds. The State Defense Force team gave its all, but came in third with a time of 17 minutes, 17 seconds.
The tug-of-war was a single elimination event. The first match – between the Air Guard and SDF teams – saw the previously struggling SDF emerge victorious over the Air Guard team. After a short five minute break, the SDF squad was defeated in the second round by a fresh Army Guard team, which widened the Patriots’ lead, putting them at a score of 200 points at the end of the first two rounds of overall competition. The Air Guard finished the second round with 85 points, and the SDF with 55 points.
The four round robin events tested each team’s strength, teamwork ability and military knowledge of radio operations, disassembly and assembly of the M4 carbine, vehicle and aircraft recognition, and the five-ton truck pull. It was here that the Air Guard began closing the gap on the Army Guard team.
The Air Guard won the five-ton truck pull and M4 event, but saw the Patriots hold onto their lead by winning in radio operations and vehicle identification.
The cumulative times of the four round robin activities were scored, and additional points were awarded respectively. The Patriots won the overall round robin event with a time of 41 minutes, 32 seconds. The SDF team – which finished second in both the M4 and radio sections – came in second overall in the round robin with a time of 44 minutes, 40 seconds, while the Air Guard crossed the finish line third with a total time of 45 minutes, 46 seconds.
In the end, the Army Guard ran away with the victory with a score of 385 points, the Air Guard earned second with 230 points, and the SDF took home 150 points.
“The Defender’s Cup is a prime example of teamwork at its best,” Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, Georgia’s Adjutant General, said after the competition. “Everyone played a significant role throughout the day, in each event. I could not be more proud of the camaraderie and excellent display of great sportsmanship exemplified by these three teams.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys,” said Brig. Gen. Jerry Bradford, GSDF commanding general. “The important thing is, we showed that we can contribute to the fight – that we’re right there with the Guard physically and mentally.”
“This is a big deal,” said Butterworth. “Today was a special day. The people who came out and participated are definitely part of something important – something I want to see grow over the years in the organization. It’s my intent that the Cup will go on with the victors as they continue with their missions at home and abroad.”
"The Air Guard was excited to be there," said Maj. Gen. Thomas Moore, Georgia Air National Guard Commander. "And we're looking forward to being there again next year with an even bigger and better team."
The Army Guard, it appears, has every intention of coming back next year and repeating its victory.
“Competition breeds comradery, and now that we have the Cup in our hands, we’ll [Army Guard] be very hesitant to let it go,” said Gann, with pride in his voice. “However, I will also tell you that it was truly great to compete against the Air Guard and State Defense Force Teams. Competition such as this, brings us all closer together.”
“Very proud of our guys,” said SDF Staff Sgt. John Derucki. “We may not have come out on top this year, but the other teams know they were in a fight. We’ll take one week of rest, and start getting ready for next year.”
“I always go back to a photo from last year’s competition,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James Nelson, the state’s senior enlisted leader. “There’s this one picture that was taken at the end of last year’s event of an Army Guardsmen and an SDF member putting away a water cooler together. That, to me, was symbolic of what this event is all about: One team, one fight.”