“19k for K.I.A.”
As in 19,000 feet to climb for those killed in action.
When he said it, the room just got quiet. A moment before there were Chris Farley jokes and laughter over a newly coined term – “funraderie.” But as soon as the last syllable came out of his mouth, the room fell silent.
Another spoke up and said plainly, “Yea, that feels right.”
So “19k for K.I.A.” it was, and Wounded Warrior Team Hard Target now had a cause, a slogan, a saying they could lean on when things got tough. A saying to serve as a reminder that when their leg hurts or their lungs are burning or there is the brief thought that it is too difficult, that this mission is bigger than just the five Wounded Warriors on this mountain.
Training for Kilimanjaro
The five-member Team Hard Target had come to IMG Academy to begin training for an assault on Mt. Kilimanjaro. They came because they knew to accomplish this task it would take every part of their mind, body and spirit. They came because they knew that no other place in the world trains performers in a 360-degree training method. They arrived and trained for 3 days with the intensity of champions, the heart of underdogs, and the drive of elites.
Each day began with a mental conditioning session led by Dr. Angus Mugford and myself. The job of the mental conditioning coaches was the same as always – to help the performers by educating them on the elite mindset, by encouraging them to apply the newfound knowledge and to support them through their journey.
We both knew, though, these two days were different. We saw this not so much in the physical difference of the team, a prosthetic leg is always going to stand out in a room. Instead, we saw it in how the team went about their business. They were always 5 minutes early. They were always energized and excited. They were always passionate, even about something as simple as going over what their team standards would be. We saw it when the team was challenged in an activity where they only had 12 minutes to transport the team across a basketball court using only small stepping stones, and they simply went about their business with a giant smile on their faces. Even when some of the stepping stones got taken away, they kept up an attitude of no matter what comes at me, no matter how difficult this gets, no matter what… I will find a way.
The next session of the day was led by Trevor Anderson, an intense physical conditioning coach that will challenge you every moment to be better every day. They attacked his sessions with urgency and deliberate intensity. The head of physical conditioning Jeff Dillman said, “I have been around a bunch of champions, a bunch of guys who really wanted it but I have never seen people attack a session like that. There is no doubt whatever this team wants to accomplish they will.”
They then headed off to meet with Steve Shenbaum, Head of Communication by game on, who had just finished working with the New York Yankees and humbly acknowledged that it was his honor and privilege to work with Team Hard Target. They engaged in several improvisational games designed to empower each individual’s expression and ability to communicate. To a man, each member would admit that this session was the most difficult of any session at IMG. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone is more difficult than climbing a mountain with one leg.
They then learned from Steve Smith, RD about how to fuel and hydrate properly above 10,000 feet and how to make sure they treated their bodies well with the foods that they put in it.
Finally, they finished their day with a Vision Training session. The session, run by David DaSilva, was a challenge because one member of the team had lost an eye in battle. But not surprisingly this was the one Warrior who dominated the vision training session.
After their complete training experience at IMG Academy, Team Hard Target will now depart for individual training across the country but one thing is for sure – they have left an indelible mark on the minds and hearts of everyone had the opportunity to work with them.
And when they left early Sunday morning – the campus was quiet.