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Guardsmen test skills at training event today
Public is invited to watch "Cherokee Challenge"
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A platoon of Army National Guardsmen will conduct an operation in Gainesville today, but not to worry ­— it's only a training exercise.

Soldiers of the National Guard's Charlie Company will be participating in the "Cherokee Challenge" in which they will push themselves to complete various tasks.

"It's just an annual Charlie Company event to test the strength and endurance of our squad," Sgt. 1st Class Clint Cowser said.

The Gainesville-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 121st infantry regiment, which includes 135 soldiers, will break down into nine-man squads to complete the operation.

Cowser expects six or seven squads to compete, as well as
a team from the Hall County Sheriff's Office.

The challenge will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Gainesville Armory with a three-mile "ruck" march to Lanier Point, where the squads must complete a water obstacle.

Once finished with the obstacle, the squad will be assigned weapons, as well as their task, conditions and standards for the next obstacle they will encounter.

"We're going to get into (Zodiac boats) and paddle out 100 meters. Then we're going to dismount the Zodiacs, and we're going to do a 100-meter ruck swim back to land," Cowser said.

The squads will have between five and 10 minutes to prepare for the next leg of the challenge: marching eight miles to the Allen Creek Soccer Complex.

At this point, the challenge will begin to test the squads' mental strength, along with their physical abilities. The second challenge will require each squad to evaluate and treat a casualty in a timely manner.

"The casualty will be a 145-pound dummy ... and once we treat and evaluate the casualty we're going to pick the casualty up on a litter and carry it an additional one mile to the Hall County Sheriff's Department range," Cowser said.

The squads will use the range to test their shooting abilities while under stress.

A land navigation course will also be located at the range and the squads will have up to three hours to complete it.

Both the stress shoot and the navigation course are graded using a points system.

Charlie Company held the event two years ago under the name "Comanche Challenge." Cowser said the company plans to make it an annual event.

The public is invited to witness the challenge, which Cowser said could take six or more hours to complete.