Operation Wildcat brought a military experience to Kroger Field

The Lexington Fire Department displayed the American flag during Operation Wildcat on Nov. 7, 2017.

Jacob Eads

It was not a covert military campaign overseas, but a grueling military exercise testing physical athleticism, mental sharpness and team cooperation under the lights at Kroger Field on Tuesday night.

At Operation Wildcat, teams comprised of military veterans and civilians were pitted against each other in physical and strategic challenges mirroring real-life military exercises in order to unite the community one high five at a time.

Operation Wildcat was made possible with joint effort from the UK Sports Medicine Research Institute (SMRI) and Team Red, White and Blue (Team RWB).

“Not everybody gets the opportunity to run underneath the lights. That’s what our draw is for everybody here, but ultimately it’s about the relationships people are hopefully going to build through this shared experience,” Troy Kenning, Team RWB Event Coordinator, said. “Hopefully everyone will have a little America running through their veins tonight.”

Team RWB is a national organization, with 257 chapters encompassing more than 250,000 members, whose goal is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

The UK SMRI is a state-of-the-art research center focused on injury prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, as well as the athletic performance of both civilian and tactical athletes.

The night began with team building exercises and physical warmups to acquaint new teammates. This culminated in a final “battle” on Kroger Field: an intensive obstacle course simulating a military mission.

The competition field included the likes of veterans, first responders, community members and even UK students. Some competitors relied on their unique skills to carry them through the obstacles.

“I think the advantage that all the Marines here tonight are going to bring to the table is the kind of training we have,” Matthew Mousley, Marine Officer Candidate and UK senior, said. “You don’t get your eagle, globe and anchor without doing a lot of intensive physical training.”

Lexington firefighter Chris Sweat said the first part of the competition was getting to know teammates.

“Couple that with the physical activity of it, which most of us guys lack anyways, I think it was beneficial,” Sweat said.

The crew behind Operation Wildcat hope to continue the event in the future and even expand the program to different places across the nation.

“I think the intensions with this is to make it such that hopefully everybody else can take it up and maybe do Operation Ole Miss, Operation Texas A&M or Operation University wherever,” RWB Lexington Chapter Captain Hope Nelson said.