1. Skip to Menu
  2. Skip to Content
  3. Skip to Footer>

"I Only Have One Rule..."

PDF Print E-mail

Written by Pat Curran

Posted on 17 January 2018

Last Updated 17 January 2018

DESTINATION TOUGHMAN:   55 Days Until Race Day

“I only have one rule. Everyone fights. No one quits.

If you don’t do your job, I’ll shoot you…”



--Michael Ironsides as Lieutenant Razcek from the movie “Starship Troopers”

To watch video, click here



As you probably can gather from the quote I selected this week, I am back to training hard and am picking up where I left off at the completion of the NYC Triathlon. This race was my way of taking inventory of where I stand in my ability to endure well before the big 70.3 Mile race in September. In short, much more work is required for me to reach my goal.


The good news is that I’m in reasonably good shape with no significant pain to write about. Many of the life’s lessons I received from my military days still remains strong within me. One of them is a memory from the 1997 movie “Starship Troopers” (which, by the way, is nowhere nearly as thought provoking as the book). At this point in the movie, the original plan has catastrophically failed, units are in the middle of regrouping, and leaders have to keep things extremely simple in order to regain momentum to fight back.


If there is one piece of advice to give this week, it’s this: When you hit that wall during your journey, don’t just quit or start searching for excuses. Find a way to leverage your “will power” to overcome any fear that may be gripping you. Just get through the moment, adapt as quickly as you can, and get back in there.


Attached are a few pictures from my race last week. Yes, I’m the guy with the Green Lantern T-Shirt on the run. I suspected that the run would be the most challenging part of the race. Seeing spectators smile with some saying, “Let’s go Green Lantern!!” was my way to keep my spirits up and begin leveraging what I call “5-Dimensional Thinking” as a way to succeed. More about that in the weeks ahead…


Until next week, keeping fighting and stay tough!


God Bless,




Did this week’s message help you? If yes, here’s an opportunity to help other Great Americas, starting at just $25.

  • Fisher House: To donate, here
  • Tuesday’s Children   To donate, click here
  • Wounded Warrior Project: To donate, click here
  • Children of Fallen Patriots: To donate, click here
  • USO’s Operation Care Package:  To donate, click here


Letters From Your Father – “If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It!"


Anna: “When the big man was killed, you must have wounded it. Its blood was on the leaves”


Dutch: “If it bleeds, we can kill it!”



Elpidia Carrillo and Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie “Predator”

To watch video, click  here


Dear Girls:


It’s early January, 1999. I am named as Platoon Leader for 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 41st Engineers just a few days earlier. Our job as combat engineers is to be masters of mobility, counter-mobility, and survivability for our infantry task force. In plain words, when the mission seems impossible, our motto is “Essayons” which means “let us try.”


The platoon just formed a few weeks back with 3 new squad leaders, soldiers from 1st and 3rd platoons and some new arrivals. My first challenge was to prepare the platoon to deploy to the Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama in less than 3 weeks. Although a lot has to be done, the best part of leading a new team is just that. It’s new. You get to create its personality, its attitude, and its values.


Shortly after, I meet up with Captain Murray, the Military Intelligence Officer for 2-22 Infantry Battalion as well as Major Cashion the Battalion Operations Officer. We immediately hit it off. Between the both of them, I receive a crash course on the military decision making process (MDMP). It's a methodology for how to plan a “combined arms” fight across a 3-Dimensional battlefield. I learn how to leverage various intelligence assets to gather key information, overlay my own insights for how to maximize the use of the terrain to give us full advantage, and help bring in all of the other service support elements for planning our shared operations order.


After a great deal of analysis the most impressive tool I learn is called a decision support matrix. At its foundation, it starts with an analysis of possible enemy plans based on three scenarios of most likely, most dangerous, and most unexpected. Then we make predictions on how each of those scenarios could unfold and send various intelligence gathering capabilities forward so we can get real time signals. After this system is set up and the battle unfolds, we have the ability to confirm or deny several possibilities and present thoughtful options to commanders to choose from. When going through this crash course, any doubt I have about the value of my West Point education vanishes. Beyond the education and training, my brain is naturally hardwired to think like this. Most people I know are experts in one or two areas. I’m not. My brain thinks across multiple disciplines instead. At a subconscious level, it feverishly tries to find connections or patterns all around me to identify what is “really” going on.


By mid-January my platoon along with 2-22 Infantry Battalion arrive in Panama at the Jungle Operations Training Center. We leave Fort Drum in -20 degree weather and arrive to very hot and humid conditions. After about five days of having the men acclimate to the weather and us planning our first set of missions, we board the LCMs (Landing Craft, Mechanized) similar to those used in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. We’re packed in like cattle. After about an hour in the water, a few soldiers around me start vomiting from the waves. To entertain ourselves, we cheer loudly when each soldier makes his way to the edge of the LCM and lets one hurl.


As we approach the beach, we hear small arms gunfire deep within the jungle. Seconds later, I hear on the radio, “Annihilator 26 (that’s me), this is Annihilator 27 (my Platoon Sergeant). What’s your orders?” My response is clear, “27 this is 26. When we hit the beach we pull security with infantry. Await further orders from there.” He responds, “26 this is 27. Will pass along. Roger. Out.”


Now looking ahead, I ask myself, OK, what’s the real plan? Luckily for me, I did not have to come up with one. I next hear the radio sound. “Cobra 36 (Infantry Platoon Leader), this is Cobra 6 (Infantry Company Commander). Execute battle drill “Romeo.” Origin of small arms fire located at vicinity…” After the Company Commander finishes his order, there is a silence followed by a sharp response, “This is Cobra 36, Message received. Roger. Out.”


As we land on the beach and ensure all of our men are accounted for, I see several infantry soldiers with heavy weapons (M249s, M203s, M240Bsgather together in the middle of the assembly area, receive a briefing, and move into the jungle. Another team of riflemen (M4salso assemble, brief, and move out. The enemy small gunfire continues while we are all in motion. Then about 15 minutes later, I hear on the radio, “Cobra 36, this is Cobra 33. Weapons team in position.” Then, there is return message. “Cobra 33, this is Cobra 36. Fire when ready.”


From that point a thunderous sound comes from a part of the jungle ahead, clearly pinning down those firing against us. After approximately 5 minutes, another voice comes on the radio, “Cobra 36, this Cobra 31. Rifle Team in position.” Next, Cobra 36 returns on the radio. “Cobra 33, this is Cobra 36. Shift Fires… Acknowledge!” Cobra 33 confirms the order. This means that the heavy weapons detachment continues to fire but confirms that they are firing away from the location of the objective. At this point the intensity of gunfire drops significantly. Then, the next command is given. “Cobra 31 this is Cobra 36. You have 6 Mikes (minutes) to clear the objective, conduct EPW (enemy prisoner of war) search, and get the hell out of there. Cobra 37 (Infantry Platoon Sergeant) is already in position at choke point with guide to bring you back to the main element.” Cobra 31 responds, “Roger. Out.”


As I watch all of this unfold, I am absolutely amazed on how quickly everyone has responded. But we are far from done. As the team of riflemen clear the objective, Cobra 6 (Infantry Company Commander) had already coordinated with all other leaders for us to move off the beach simultaneously. Major Cashion from Battalion headquarters wants all units to meet at our link up point several kilometers away by 1300 hours (1pm). The thinking they all have is that the longer we stay in one place the easier it is for us to get killed. Also, when it gets dark in a triple canopy jungle, its not just dark, it’s black. You can’t even see your hand 6 inches in front of your face. Also, that’s when the jungle gets loud and the wild life is most active.


After that first day in the jungle, our platoon goes through a bonding process as we collectively conduct raids, recons, ambushes, clear booby traps, and engaged in river boat operations using underwater demolitions. I spend time planning operations at Battalion Headquarters, then with little sleep go back to my platoon to follow through on the promises made. What becomes apparent to me is how important it is for us to know our role in a larger matrix. My platoon became increasingly sharper on what I classified in my mind as clearing “points” or missions. Give them a challenging task, and the collective wisdom and experience of the NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) would find the best way to get it done. If one of the fundamental assumptions about the mission changes, they rely heavily on me to figure out a new path forward for us to focus on. On the other hand, my primary role as a Platoon Leader is to think across time and use the insights taught to me by my NCOs to integrate us into plans effectively. Between my squad leaders, platoon sergeant and I, we teach each other enough of what the other person does to appreciate the complexity of what we do, yet unequivocally trust each other to get our own parts done. If anyone needs help, we all swarm in to close the gap.


About 2 weeks later after getting back out of the jungle into base camp, I drop a couple hundred dollars to buy the platoon food and beer so we could relax. In my mind, it is the least I could do. We spend time trading stories (there were some really funny moments out there) and talking about our girlfriends, families, kids, and how we want to get back home. As night came, I grab another beer to sit alone by the water and palm trees. I clear my mind and ask myself, if I learned one thing, what would it be? The phrase I make up, oddly enough, comes from one of my Physics courses when we discussed the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. The phrase is “4-Dimensional Thinking.”


The concept of “4-Dimensional Thinking” seems to come from all this planning we have been doing that a few times was referred to as the 3-Dimensional fight. Over the course of the 2 weeks, I grew in my own ability to look across the 4th dimension also known as “time” for trends and patterns. By doing that, I became what was missing for my platoon and my Infantry Battalion. I decide right then and there that my job as a leader is to always be dealing with the complexities of the present but to also be able to look across various disciplines and time to find the best possible future.  


Still something is missing, I thought. What about the platoon’s morale? What about building a bond so strong between us that we will risk our own lives for the other guy when the chips are down? Without that, we are nothing! There must best something beyond “4-Dimensional Thinking” that I learned here? Outside of time, perhaps?


That’s where my experience from Jungle School left off. My faith was not strong enough yet to take me much further to connect all the pieces. But it was enough for a while. I incorporated this framework in everything I did in the military as Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, and Assistant Battalion Operations Officer. And to some degree this thinking and passion for being the best leader I could be set me apart from many of my peers.


From graduation of West Point until August of 2001, I was very happy with how I balanced my commitment to your Mom and my commitment to those I served with in the military. Along the way, both of my knees were torn up a bit though. Knowing that I would be getting out of the Active Army after May of 2002 and spend my last 3 years of my commitment as a civilian serving as needed in the Reserves, I decided to space out my knee surgeries for August and October 2001. This would give me ample recovery time before beginning out-processing in the Spring. I would be in a staff job the rest of my time and could cruise out with a strong feeling of pride for doing my watch well. Unfortunately, it did not end that way. Although I could not see it, things began to change in late July, 2001.


“Captain Curran. I know you will be out for 2 weeks with surgery in early August. We need you to work on something,” says Major Griffith, my boss and our Engineer Battalion Operations Officer. I respond, “Sir, no problem. What is it?” He replies, “We need you to develop Battalion Force Protection SOP (standard operating procedure) aligned with Division Headquarters in order to increase our security posture.” I chuckle. “Security posture? Sir, are we nervous about the Mounties (Canadians) coming over the boarder and hitting Fort Drum?” He responds in a serious tone, “Not funny, Captain Curran. We just moved to ‘ThreatCon Delta’ (highest readiness condition) overseas. Apparently there is a lot concern for another USS Cole type terrorist attack and a small possibility of someone trying to hit one of our military bases here in the states.” Now standing a little more upright and serious I respond with, “Apologies, Sir. Absolutely… I’ll make time to do this well.”


No one would predict the events of the next few weeks. It would shake many of us in this country (to include myself) down to our core.


Will write more next week.

With Love,




This Week in Training:

First let’s start with the data:

                           2010               2011               2012

Swim (1500m)         20:12              20:08              22:48  (no wetsuit this year)

TZ1                            08:05              08:25              05:32

Bike (25 miles)         1:18:59          1:23:08          1:24:02

TZ2                            05:21              06:08              05:32

Run (6.2 miles)        59:18              1:01:32          1:01:57

 Total                         2:51:53          2:59:19          3:00:10


Here is how I see it. The good news is I have never been this healthy at this point of the training since starting endurance races like this back in 2007. Usually, I would be nursing some injury by now. Last year’s NYC Triathlon was in August, so I am generally matching where I was and its only early July. One area, I am absolutely “giving a lot a way” to my competitors is my weight. The Clydesdale category requires a competitor to be 200lbs. When weighing in at packet pickup with shoes, shorts and T-shirt, I weighed 268 lbs the day before the race. The second area I found that needs work is that I “lost my legs” on the run. The first 2 miles I was running under 9:00min mile pace (my target). However, half way through Mile 2, I started to tighten up.


So, I’ve decided keep everything the same in my training plan with only these 4 adjustments:

1.  Nutrition Planning: I will write out my nutrition plan each day before I go to work on an index card and keep it in my pocket. Goal is to feed my body right and let the weight loss take care of itself. Target weight goals:

-       Ready for Toughman – 245lbs

-       Competitive for Toughman – 235lbs

-       Optimal Condition for Toughman - Under 225lbs

2.  Mile Repeats: During long runs, I intend to do Mile Repeats as a way to practice running fast. HEAVY EMPHASIS ON FORM, NOT STRENGTH. Target will be under 8:30 mile pace with 1-mile recovery under 10:00 min pace. Once I miss my 2nd attempt, I will attempt to stabilize a 9 min mile pace for the rest of the long run. Goal: Build my legs up for race day without injury.

3.  Challenging Bike Rides: With exception to the NYC Triathlon, I have done bike workouts just to finish time requirements of my training plan. Now, I will put some speed requirements into those workouts as well. It will force me to read the terrain more actively to pick the right gears and pedal more efficiently.

4.  Drop 300 Workout: I don’t need to get any bigger. Instead, I will use the time on Thursday’s to do a long stretching routine to protect against injuries.


With all of this in mind, here’s this week’s workout plan:

Monday: Swim 10-15 x 100m; Run 8 x 200m; Strength Training – Legs

Tuesday: Bike 75 min; Run 60 min; 8 Chin-ups / 50 Pushups / Ice Knees

Wednesday: Swim 10 x 200; Bike 90 min

Thursday: Swim 16 x 40m; Long Stretching Routine

Friday: Bike 3 hours / Run 20 min (3:30am Wakeup!)

Saturday: Run 90 min

Sunday: Stretch / Sports with Girls