554th MP Company honors fallen comrade during ‘Clifton Challenge’

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554th Military Police Company 1st and 2nd Platoon members embark on the eight-mile mile ruck march wearing combat personal protective equipment and a 35 pound rucksack during the final leg of the Clifton Challenge, Sept. 1 in Böblingen, Germany. U.S. Army Photo by Eric Steen.

By Holly DeCarlo-White
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

Soldiers with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 554th Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, were selected by their respective platoons to participate in the fourth annual “Clifton Challenge,” Sept. 1 on Panzer Kaserne in Böblingen. The day was packed with physical and mental activities such as land navigation and obstacle courses, an assault rifle stress shoot, an eight-mile ruck march and a team board.

The challenge is dedicated to a fellow fallen comrade, Cpl. Karen Clifton, 22, who was killed in Baghdad, Iraq, June 21, 2007. The unit’s building, 2914 on Panzer Kaserne, also was renamed Clifton Hall in 2008.

Following the 554th MP Company 1st Sgt. SG Adam Lashley’s introduction, the Company Commander, Capt. Daniel Jimenez, welcomed the group reading a letter from a child received in a care package thanking the Soldiers for their dedicated service. Jimenez reminded Soldiers of the important values Clifton defended when making the ultimate sacrifice: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, democracy and freedom.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey A. Searl, commanding officer of the 709th MP Battalion also addressed and thanked competitors, “I believe with every fiber of my being that we are here to honor those that have gone before us. What we’re here to do now is to train and increase readiness. As we go through the day, let us not lose what the true meaning of the Clifton Challenge is.”

“Less than 1 percent of American sons and daughters today, raise their right hand like each of you did,” Searl said.

In order to provide a safe yet challenging event, maneuver schemes were planned in three phases: preparation, execution and recovery for each challenge.

The Army Physical Fitness Test assessed the Soldiers ability to perform physically with the added challenge of wearing Army Combat Uniforms (ACU’s) and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) masks. The test kicked off in the early morning at 4:45 a.m. before heading to the track at Stuttgart High School for a two-mile run and timed push-ups and sit-ups wearing masks.

The land navigation course competition began adjacent to the Local Training Area in Böblingen. Following a safety briefing, maps were issued and the clock started with a 90-minute countdown. Soldiers had to successfully attain the first five of 10 points. Scores were assessed by the total number completed within the time period.

The day continued with an obstacle course on the LTA. Competitors negotiated selected obstacles to achieve proficiency in moving over, under and around objects. Soldiers were evaluated on their ability to successfully navigate each obstacle, as well as the time it took to complete the course.

Soldiers then moved to the Panzer Range Complex for a stress shoot, evaluating their marksmanship skills under physical and mental stress. During the challenge, competitors had to identify enemy shooters, secure barriers, conduct safety briefings and proper range operations, all while maintaining accountability of the ammunition, and dunnage.

The stress shoot began with a few minutes of physical activity: flutter kicks, half-jacks and burpees, to get their blood flowing. As a team, they moved to the range to locate their weapons and engage their target. Soldiers had 45 seconds to fire 20 rounds, receiving points for hitting their specified target.

The challenge concluded with an eight-mile ruck march to evaluate the Soldiers ability to move wearing combat personal protective equipment and a 35 pound rucksack in a three person fire team. The goal: complete the march in less than two hours.

Upon returning to the company headquarters on Panzer Kaserne, each platoon attended a board to test their knowledge of the challenges namesake and history of the 554th MP Company.

By the end of the day, competitors were exhausted, but felt good about the hard work they had accomplished together in honor of their fallen comrade.

“Blood, sweat and tears for Cpl. Clifton,” said Spc. Tymire Lewis of the 3rd Platoon.

“What I saw here today was not only you fighting for each other, but you cheering the rest of your teammates on too which is what the Army is all about,” said Lashley of the 554th MP Company.

With much anticipation and the smell of the celebratory barbecue floating through the air, Jimenez, 554th company commander, announced the 2nd Platoon as the overall winner of the 2016 Clifton Challenge.

To view more 2016 Clifton Challenge photos, click here.