In Survival Trial, points awarded for almost everything. While overcoming challenges brings the most points, teams can also earn points for attitude and karma. Team Terra Victor earned 1,425 points to win ST III: Winterborn. Of course, every person involved became a survivor, as no one quit. 1st Place: Team Terra Victor (John Trout and Gene Locke) with 1,425 points 2nd Place: Team CRG (Guy Schmidt and Nick Thompson) with 1,230 points 3rd Place: Team Wolverine (Joe Lange and Gavin McNew) with 730 points 4th Place: Team Dirt Divers (Alan Apodaca and Roger Graham) with 600 points 5th Place: Team Night Stalkers (Sandy Leder and Nicole Ruby) with 540 points
Most of the challenges were pulled straight from situations that could potentially happen, such as home guard, hiking accidents or workplace violence. As part of the workplace violence challenge, individual team members had to engage four hostiles with a handgun and conduct a magazine change. Afterward, the team had to assess and pull their 300-pound "boss" to safety.
A large part of Survival Trial is navigation and orienteering. Teams must use maps and compasses to find the challenges before they can earn points. While speed and stamina is important, having a plan and knowing how to implement that plan is just as important. The teams that did best were the ones who made the fewest route mistakes.
Even though the teams were competing against one another, they stayed friendly. When teams crossed each other's paths, tales of the event were quickly passed and advice was often provided. This might have been because the event wasn’t about prizes or even winning. It was about surviving a test that no one else will ever be able to try, as each and every Survival Trial is different. Winterborn was their event, and they were the brave few.
One benefit of NRA Whittington Center is its ability to easily stage extremely long shots in a variety of scenarios and locations. One long-range shooting challenge was performed at the 1,000-yard range, but another was staged on a hill, shooting into a mountain, with the targets at undisclosed distances. There are few locations anywhere in the world that can provide this kind of versatility to shooters.
Each team member was required to carry a 9 mm semi-auto handgun with two magazines and an AR-15 rifle in 5.56 with three magazines. Each team also had to carry a single rifle in .308 Win. to perform precision shots at long ranges. Each team had to make the best determination of its needs in regard to weight versus accuracy and stability. Most teams went light, but Team CRG carried a Desert Tactical Recon for its long shots.
After a night of sub-freezing temperatures–it got as low as 19 degrees F–the teams were more subdued, but still doing well. They had made it through the night and were past the halfway point. Also, the sun was up, and anyone who has spent a long, cold night outdoors knows, the rising sun is a morale booster.
Each team had to visit mandatory locations spread out across the ST III arena. When a team arrived at these locations they were awarded a designated amount of points, but the teams could also perform the challenge to earn additional points. After arriving at a mandatory checkpoint, Team Wolverine, Joe Lange and Gavin McNew of Texas, assessed a 250-pound "Jake" injured in a hiking accident, and decided that he was dead and frozen to the ground. This cost them some points, but sometimes the best decision is to move on rather than do the challenge. Observer Controllers recorded these situations in their notes.
There is a lot of wildlife located at the NRA Whittington Center and surrounding areas. Much of it is innocuous, like mule deer, elk and small game, but the area is also known for bears and mountain lions, which is part of the challenge of Survival Trial. Of course, mountain lions are extremely shy and prefer to slip away unseen, and most bears were hibernating during ST III: Winterborn.
As part of the challenge, teams could locate and carry Golden Baskets (large Americase boxes of varying weights) representing prizes, such as Americase firearm cases, Leupold rangefinders and Professional Marksmen Inc. training certificates. There were five (one per team) Golden Baskets placed in various locations across the arena. The rules surrounding the baskets were simple: If they picked up a Golden Basket, they had to carry it the rest of the time, and they could not open the basket. Three teams made the decision that the prizes were worth the weight.
Team Wolverine – 45-pound Golden Basket Team CRG – 40-pound Golden Basket Team Terre Victor – 15-pound Golden Basket
While this seems like a competition geared toward guys, one of the five participating teams was made up of two women. Nicole Ruby, half of the husband/wife team Ruby Red that won ST II, was joined by fellow ER nurse Sandy Leder on this overnight quest. They called themselves the Night Stalkers, and felt that if they could handle raging drunks at 3 a.m. at their jobs, they could handle Winterborn.
The challenges varied among mental, physical and shooting. Some implemented multiple facets, such as with the Bank Run, which combined shooting and physical. After defending against assailants attacking a bank, without hitting any innocents, each team had to assess and move a victim, made of logs linked by chain, about 100 yards in under 5 minutes. Team CRG, Guy Schmidt and Nick Thompson of Montana, used its sled to quickly drag the 250-pound "Jake" across the snow and ice.
As the 6 p.m. start time neared, teams were in high spirits and ready for the challenge of a 24-hour test. The safety rules had been provided and the preparation was over; it was time to find out if they would become survivors. The main piece of advice offered by coordinator Jon Weiler of Professional Marksmen Inc.: The ST III is not going to be easy, but do not quit. Take care of each other. This is a competition, but you are in this together. Most of all, do not quit.
For the first time in the competition’s history, competitors were equipped with SPOT GPS tracking modules, allowing observers to monitor each team's progress. It also allowed for interested parties to watch the teams in real time, via a link on. The units also had an emergency button in case a team member became injured, and also a quit button if a team decided it had had enough.
As part of ST III, each two-person team was required to carry specific gear. The teams could take as much additional gear as they wanted to carry, while remembering that Pack it In/Pack it Out was in effect: If they started with an item, they had to finish with the item. There were also prohibited items, such as GPS units and cell phones. Basically, teams couldn't carry any type of transmitting device.
The NRA Whittington Center is a 33,000-acre shooting facility in the mountains outside of Raton, N.M. It has ranges for rifles, handguns and shotguns, including a 1,000-yard range and many locations in the mountainous terrain that provide excellent backstops for real-world, long-range rifle training. It also has a large cafeteria and many reasonable housing options for competitors and their families. An adjoining ranch was also included in the ST III arena, providing 120,000 acres for the contestants to traverse.