PME Hard Challenge pays tribute to 9/11 first responders

Soldiers, civilians and first responders begin the Team APG PME Hard Challenge held on Fanshaw Field Sept. 8, 2017.|U.S. Army photo by Rachel Ponder, APG News

A little mud didn’t stop nearly 60 Soldiers, civilians and first responders from completing the rigorous Team APG Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, or PME, Hard Challenge Sept. 8 at Fanshaw Field.

Held three days before the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the challenge honors the bravery of first responders.

The early-morning event started with a safety briefing from Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Toese Tia Jr. and an invocation by Garrison Chaplain Lt. Col. Michael King.

CECOM Command. Sgt. Maj. Matthew McCoy provided opening remarks. Some of the challenges during the PME physical training session will be unexpected, he said.

“The whole concept behind PME, especially the 9/11 [PME], the capstone, is that we don’t get to control the conditions all the time. We get what we are handed and we push through it,” he said. “That’s the spirit of this event.”

McCoy added that participants will work together as a team to “push through” physical discomfort.

“Today we come together to honor those first responders, our military service members and their families, and the volunteers that rolled up their sleeves and responded to the tragic events on that fateful day,” he said.

Competition phases

The competition began with a “casualty evacuation.” This involved teams carrying four sand bags weighing about 10 pounds each in a litter around Fanshaw Field. Next, the groups conducted a “deep dive search and rescue” at Olympic Pool. During this phase of the competition, teams were challenged to swim 300 meters while pushing a 10-pound rubber pool brick under water.

CECOM headquarters team members, from left, Pamela Leigh, Lauren Brennan and Andrew Rehkop, raise a 250-pound tractor tire as Capt. Nathan Gadberry looks on during the Team APG PME Hard Challenge at Fanshaw Field Sept. 8, 2017. | U.S. Army photo by Rachel Ponder, APG News

In the next phase, called “Toned-Out,” team members picked up firefighting equipment on loan from the Directorate of Emergency Services, and were instructed to not let the equipment touch the ground during the remainder of the PME Hard Challenge. At this station, participants also selected two cards which indicated if they had to carry additional equipment during the competition, and if they were required to do additional exercises, like jumping jacks or push-ups.

In the “Centennial Year Challenge” phase of the competition, teams were required to do 100 burpees, squats, sit-ups and push-ups.

Back at Fanshaw Field, teams completed a “life-saving” obstacle course. Challenges included breaching a door; rolling a fire hose; pounding a tire with a sledge hammer; conducting CPR on dummies and moving a 5-foot tall, 250-pound tractor truck tire 20 meters.

(From left) Beth Jensen and Victoria Masco, both contractors from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, roll up a water hose during the Team APG PME Hard Challenge held on Fanshaw Field Sept. 8, 2017. |U.S. Army photo by Rachel Ponder, APG News

The competition ended with the teams running another lap around Fanshaw Field while carrying the litters, sandbags, and firefighting equipment.

After finishing the course, participants visited the APG Army Wellness Center booth for healthy refreshments and information about AWC services.

Creating unity

McCoy and Tia presented medals to first, second and third winners.

First place went to “Team NDT,” comprised of 20th CBRNE Command Soldiers, with a time of 52 minutes, 45 seconds.

Sgt. 1st Class Teresa Mayo,with Team NDT, attributed the win to“good teamwork.”

“We work out everyday for PT,” she said. “We just wanted to go as hard as we could.”

Coming in at 53 minutes, 49 seconds, team “The Can and the Fan” took second place. The team was comprised of APG Fire and Emergency Services personnel.

Assistant Chief of Operations Kenneth Cato called the event “awesome.”

“We had a great team, it was an honor to finish second,” he said. “It is comforting to know that the general public hasn’t forgotten about the sacrifices police, fire and emergency medical services provide daily.”

Rounding out the top three was team “Mulberry Squad,” with a time of 54 minutes, 20 seconds. The team is comprised of U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command personnel.

Staff Sgt. Oscar Orozco, said the team was the first group to compete in the pool. This lead, he said, gave the team a morale boost.

“It motivated us to keep pushing and keep going,” he said.

Tia congratulated all participants and said PME events create unity within the installation.

“We have a great community that comes out and supports it” he said. “But most importantly, it builds a culture within our installation and our community. They see it is not about one individual, it’s about a collective.”

At the conclusion of the event, McCoy led attendees in a moment of silence for the 9/11 victims.

For more information or to volunteer for a quarterly PME physical training session, email 1st Sgt. Richard Bernard, APG Garrison Headquarters and Headquarters Company, at


By Rachel Ponder, APG News