Seminar 8 "dragon boat" competitors British Maj. Philip Anderson and Maj. Megan OKeefe use a back-to-back paddling approach while competing in the School of Advanced Military Studies Boatyard Warz July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

To build morale and encourage team building among students, the School of Advanced Military Studies hosted a Boatyard Warz competition July 22 at Hancock Pool.

School of Advanced Military Studies students Maj. John Beatty and Brazilian Lt. Col. Leonardo Alves ride atop the narrow watercraft constructed by their Seminar 1 teammates and paddle with their arms to complete a lap in Hancock Pool during the finals of the SAMS Boatyard Warz competition July 22. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“I stole the idea from the (Army) War College at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania,” said Col. Brian Payne, SAMS director. “It’s a good team-building exercise, but it also nests well with our curriculum, which is about solving problems in ambiguous situations with the tools you have available.”

School of Advanced Military Studies students Maj. Teodoro Garcia and Maj. Aaron Phillips maneuver their watercraft toward the pool edge to turn around and complete the lap to secure victory in the final race of the SAMS Boatyard Warz competition July 22. Seminar groups constructed boats, obtaining recycled construction materials by answering questions and completing physical challenges. The SAMS students then raced the boats in three elimination heats in the pool, then a final race to determine an overall winner. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


The event included all 124 SAMS students, split into nine teams by their class seminar, answering questions and working together to build a boat that could carry two competitors across the length of Hancock Pool and back.

School of Advanced Military Studies students celebrate the return of Maj. John Beatty and Brazilian Lt. Col. Leonardo Alves, atop the watercraft constructed by their Seminar 1 teammates, after successfully completing laps out and back in Hancock Pool and winning the first heat of the SAMS Boatyard Warz competition July 22. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


During the question round, each correctly answered question earned the team the opportunity to choose one item for the boat, such as cardboard or water wings. If a team member answered his or her question wrong, every member of the team had to complete a physical challenge such as burpees or air squats before choosing an item for the boat.

School of Advanced Military Studies students Maj. Jeff Ellingsen and Maj. Dino Buchanan of Seminar 2 try to keep pace with other SAMS Boatyard Warz competitors during the first heat of races July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“(The event) is a way for them to get to know each other and see how their skills or their planning or strategizing is going to come together to help their team get two people across in the boat,” said Maj. Maria Alcala, SAMS operations officer. “Seeing how their team works is how they’re going to get through the school-year. In every team you’re going to have your strong guys and then you’ll have one or two that are a little bit weaker.

School of Advanced Military Studies students Maj. Jeremy Dixon and Maj. Luke King of Seminar 4 attempt to right their boat as it begins to capsize in the first heat of the SAMS Boatyard Warz races July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“Now, throughout the year, they’ll know how to work together and make sure they all get through the academic schoolyear,” she said.

School of Advanced Military Studies students Maj. Jeremy Dixon and Maj. Luke King of Seminar 4 use their arms to paddle as the first heat of the SAMS Boatyard Warz races begins July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


Payne said the event helps staff understand students better, too.

Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies Program students Marine Lt. Col. Peter Preister and Troy Tillis salvage their team’s boat from the water near the end of their return lap in the second heat of the School of Advanced Military Studies Boatyard Warz races July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“I want to see what their group dynamics are like in a pressurized environment, so they get to know each other not only sitting in the classroom but also when they’re actually trying to get something done,” Payne said. “It gives our faculty an opportunity to observe students in action. As we see things about our students, we can tailor their specific education path for the year to help accentuate things they’re good at or address some of the things that they need to work on.”

Seminar 7 competitors Maj. Teodoro Garcia and Maj. Aaron Phillips, on their mattress-like watercraft, and Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies Program competitors Troy Tillis and Marine Lt. Col. Peter Preister, in their cardboard boat, launch from the poolside as the second heat of the School of Advanced Military Studies Boatyard Warz races begins July 22 at Hancock Pool. Seminar 7 won the heat and went on to win the finals. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


Maj. Cory Braun, SAMS student in Seminar 7, said his team found the exercise innovative and fun.

School of Advanced Military Studies students cheer as Seminar 3 competitors Navy Lt. Mark Carrion and Maj. Jaridd Leute race to successfully complete their return lap of the pool during the third heat of the SAMS Boatyard Warz races July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“Our strategy was flotation first, speed second. We understood that there was no way to win if we sank, and that most teams underestimated how hard it would be to keep their boat afloat. Two engineers on our team really tipped the balance in our design,” Braun said. “We learned that as a team we have patience, which helped us wait until we had all available materials before we started building the boat. Some teams failed in this regard.

Seminar 5 competitors Pakistani Maj. Yasin Javed and Maj. Michael Pierri swim to the side of the pool as their boat sinks during the School of Advanced Military Studies Boatyard Warz heat 3 race July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“We also learned that everybody was proactive in applying their own talents into the overall team effort, without there being any prima donnas,” he said. “(The event) replicates unconventional problems that SAMS planners may face, within the context of a fun event that better helps extract the lessons of the experience … and builds a fun institutional memory that SAMS students can pass on.”

Seminar 5 competitors Maj. Michael Pierri and Pakistani Maj. Yasin Javed collide with Seminar 8 “dragon boat” competitors British Maj. Philip Anderson and Maj. Megan OKeefe as Pierri and Javed try to complete their first lap and Anderson and OKeefe begin their return lap during the School of Advanced Military Studies Boatyard Warz July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


Maj. Christina Shelton, SAMS student in Seminar 3, said her team worked well together.
“We quickly divided our talents up and allowed those that had more knowledge in the basics of construction lead the group and direct the others,” Shelton said. “This event was a really helpful tool at getting to know our classmates better. It also helped us to serve in different roles — where someone wasn’t a leader, they had to be in the position of a follower.

Seminar 5 competitors Maj. Michael Pierri and Pakistani Maj. Yasin Javed drain the water from their collapsed boat after recovering it from the pool during the School of Advanced Military Studies Boatyard Warz July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“I hope they keep this event (going annually),” she said. “It’s not only a really great team-building event for our seminar, but it also gave my spouse a chance to meet my classmates and seminar leader.”

Seminar 8 “dragon boat” competitors British Maj. Philip Anderson and Maj. Megan OKeefe use a back-to-back paddling approach while competing in the School of Advanced Military Studies Boatyard Warz July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp
Seminar 3 competitors Navy Lt. Mark Carrion and Maj. Jaridd Leute near the edge of the pool to begin their return lap of the pool while racing against British Maj. Philip Anderson and Maj. Megan OKeefe of Seminar 8, right, and Pakistani Maj. Yasin Javed and Maj. Michael Pierri of Seminar 5 in the third heat of the School of Advanced Military Studies Boatyard Warz races July 22 at Hancock Pool. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

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