Ruck BEAST Squad features interviews with members of the community to highlight their lives, training, gear, and insight. Hopefully as you read through this you’ll be able to take away advice that will help you train better and perform better that upcoming events. In this special issue of Ruck BEAST Squad we get to hear from GORUCK Cadre Aaron Hand!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself:
A: I am 48 years old, living in Clarksville TN and working as an RN in the ER at Fort Campbell, KY. I retired from the Army after 20 years. I spent my first 13 years with the rangers and special forces, and the last 7 as a commissioned officer in the army medical department. I live with my wife Amanda and our son Gavin who is 15. We have 3 more boys who are grown and living and working away from home. And we have a cat named sparkles (not my decision). I really like hiking and camping, doing goruck events, anything outdoors really.
Q: What was your initial thought when you heard about GORUCK? How that that opinion changed since you’ve spent time running events and being part of the community?
A: I first was introduced to goruck when asked to speak at an event about my experiences in Mogadishu Somalia, 1993 at an HTL last October in Charlotte. So I went and spoke at the heavy, tough, and light. A good friend and fellow cadre John Belman was running the event with Cadre Cleve. My first thought about doing goruck was probably not unlike many veterans. I thought why in the world would I want to do that since I did it for so long in the army, and it usually wasn’t all that much fun. But of course it’s good people so I showed up and showed out, even managed to knock out the light (my first goruck event) without too much trouble and surprise bonus-cadre Fagan (my team sergeant while in special forces) even showed up for the light. Honestly it did hurt more than a little, but it was an absolute blast. Just the right combination of hard and fun for a goruck first timer. I realized that when you are rucking on your own terms it’s a hell of a lot more fun. Even brought back some fond memories of getting my ass kicked as a joe. Seriously though, I was blown away by the caliber of people who showed up that weekend. They weren’t showy, they weren’t prideful, but they did the work and endured the pain all weekend long with the flag held high in the air. My kind of people for sure I thought. Then I was invited on as cadre and did a tough in Chattanooga with Cody G. That was fantastic and awful simultaneously. He ran a great event but I realized I am indeed mortal and no longer a spring chicken. We had a great bunch of GRTs for that event and I was again impressed by their grit and positive attitudes. Since that time I have been a solo cadre for a tough/light sprint series in Detroit where we had the privilege of honoring Medal of Honor winner CSM Bennie Adkins for his actions in the A Shau valley of Vietnam. This was special for me because Adkins was at that time still a living MOH recipient. As many must know he recently died due to COVID. I feel we were very fortunate to be able to honor this man one last time before he passed away. But again I was very impressed by the GRTs. They showed up strong and they were ready for whatever I threw at them. It was dark, it was cold, but as a team they managed to knock out a pretty hard tough and light without losing a single person. Most recently I got to be a cadre for the Nashville D-Day HTL with Belman. We had some administrative and logistical obstacles to put it lightly, what with COVID restrictions and major cities having riots and protests. We asked for a great deal of flexibility and trust from the GRTs, and once again they did not fail to impress. We had a great weekend (well, I did anyway). Long story short the more time I spend with the goruck community the more I like it. Great bunch of folks.
Q: What are your favorite type events to run? What makes them special for you?
A: I haven’t done very many events yet but my favorite so far was the D-Day HTL. Three times the fun!
Q: What makes an event successful in your eyes? What does the team have to do? What do you have to do?
A: To me success is defined by how well a team comes together during the event. The obstacles and challenges we present are meant to create difficulty and chaos. Teams that gel quickly will find they suffer less in my events but I will always try to have a central theme to try to let the GRTs imagine what it might have been like for the soldiers on the ground. For the A Shau valley events we focused in on the fact that CSM Adkins was wounded 18 times but still managed to fight like hell and save many lives. I wanted to accentuate that and we did some fun exercises to really hone in on the number 18 and how it can be a very high number (see CSM Bennie Adkins WOD). At the D day HTL I focused in on the number of rangers killed and wounded at point du hoc. 135 out of 225 were either dead or non mission capable after 2 days of fighting. They lost over 50 percent but still completed their extraordinary mission to climb the cliffs and take out the German guns, against staggering odds. We did several exercises 135 times to drill that very high number in. Fun times. At least for me.
Q: Give us some advice for the person getting ready for their first light or first thought? What about the person who is coming back for a light or tough who has done several events? How would you recommend them to be a good teammate without being overbearing and being too in charge?
A: For a first event I would say observe and have fun. Jump in to help the team as a weight bearer. If you feel like you want to be a leader, speak up. But when you are not appointed as a leader be a good follower and teammate. Those who have done several events-remember that everyone has something to contribute and that you are a goruck ambassador. People will judge their goruck experiences by their interactions with you, me. and the environment. As a leader, walk a fine line between democracy and dictatorship (after a while you will start to know when to ask for input and when to give direction) Give positive feedback and provide motivation as a leader. Passing judgement should be reserved for me. Thank you.
Q: Sometimes we wonder what you are thinking during events. For instance, when the class can’t go 10 feet without putting the coupons down? Or when they keep having breaks in contact despite many warnings about it? Or, when the TL is silent and ineffective, and things just fall apart? Are you mad, frustrated, disappointed, bored?
A: I tell the GRTs that the events belong to them. They are your goat. I tell you the what, you decide the how. Rotating too often is fine if you can make the time hacks. If not then there is payment owed. Breaks in contact are a byproduct of inefficiency. Some folks are speeding and some are dragging. The efficient team moves sure and steady. The team should reassess its plan if this happens often. When the team leader does not have effective control of the team I don’t see this as a bad thing necessarily. It’s opportunity to make mistakes and learn, goruck style.
Q: For someone like you, a current of former member of the Special Forces, who arguably has or had, one of the coolest jobs in the world, why do you take the time out of your life to come and spend long nights with a bunch of crazies like us?
A: Being in special operations was an honor for me and it is an honor to share my knowledge and experiences with Americans who want to take their time and money to do goruck events. As I have said I have met many amazing people in my short time with goruck. I hope to meet a lot more great people and be Cadre for many more events
Q: One piece of GORUCK gear you wouldn’t want to let go of? (Could be for usability or sentimental reasons)
A: I love the rucks. They are just virtually indestructible. I wish these bags were around when I was still in special ops.
Q: What other hobbies do you have?
A: I camp, I hike, I ruck. That’s pretty much it.
Q: What’s the best purchase under $100 you’ve made in the past 12 months.
A: Well don’t get angry but for me the goruck 60 lb sandbag is under $100. I love it.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
A: Here’s two:
- Don’t dwell on regret. The past is gone so learn from it and move forward.
- Never feel sorry for yourself-the only easy day was yesterday.
Q: Best beer to drink after a ruck?
A: I’m a leinenkugel fan right now. Summer shandy.
Q: Parting Shots: Anything else you’d like to say before you go?
A: I want to say thank you all for doing what you do, making yourselves better and stronger for each challenge. Stay motivated and keep coming back.
If you know someone (or are someone) who would be a good fit for an upcoming episode of Ruck BEAST Squad please reach out to Derek Hill (derekhill1 AT gmail DOT com).