SEALs reach peak of personal, fitness aims on Kilimanjaro.
As part of their individual culture of fitness and SEAL ethos, nine U.S. Navy SEALs completed a successful eight-day climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania last July. It proved to be a very personal experience for one of the participants.
"There are plenty of people who do it [climb Kilimanjaro], said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Irwin, executive officer of Naval Special Warfare Unit 2, who led the expedition in memory of his father, Paul. "It's not difficult like Everest, which is a technical climb. But it was harder than we thought."
"I had altitude issues, and most of the guys had one issue or another," he added.
Although SEALs are some of the fittest athletes in the world, many of the team members spent a few weeks hiking with heavy packs to prepare.
"The [climbing] company has porters to help you carry supplies and gear up. You normally only carry a small backpack with water and snacks in it," said Irwin.
But being SEALs, they had to make it a bit more challenging, so they carried a lot of their personal gear instead of using porters, something some climbers say only a few attempt.
The crew climbed a few thousand feet each day with overnight stays to acclimate and rest before the next day's push.
"It was gorgeous, said Irwin. "We went through five different climate zones, forests, desert and then at the top there are gigantic glaciers."
For Irwin, this trip was important to him for a very personal reason. His father, Paul, attempted to climb the 19,331 foot summit, but a racing heart stopped him short of the peak. Two years later, while on a walking safari in Tanzania, Paul suffered a fatal heart attack.
Chris completed the dream of his father, with support from fellow SEALs. The team used leave time to finish his father's mission.
"I wanted to take some of his ashes to the top and spread them," said Chris. "This whole thing became a personal thing. I wanted to do what my dad tried in 2005 and did not make it to the top."
The author: Travioli is attached to Naval Special Warfare Group Two in Norfolk
A group of Sailors assigned to a Naval Special Warfare unit make their way up Mount Kilimanjaro during an off-duty climbing expedition planned during their leave time. The Sailors made the climb to promote fitness and to commemorate the life of one of the group's late father, who was an avid mountain climber.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jasmine Boisvert carries her teammate while participating in the Naval Medical Center San Diego health exposition sports course exercise. The event was part of a comprehensive Navy effort to promote a culture of fitness among Sailors.
Photo by MC3 Matthew N. Jackson
By MCC (SCW/AW) Stan Travioli