RICHMOND, Va. –
Virginia Army National Guard recruiters challenged area lifeguards with the 3rd Annual National Guard Water Sports Challenge, held July 10, 2021, at the Miller Park Pool in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“The goal of this event was to foster our relationship with the Lynchburg Parks and Recreation Department, and to introduce career opportunities to qualified seasonal employees,” explained Staff Sgt. Steven Knichel, who helped found the event in 2018. He said he and a fellow recruiter approached staff with Lynchburg Parks and Rec and offered up a unique training event for their local lifeguards. Since then, the event has run every year, except for 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Knichel explained that the challenge included five parts: a 10-minute, unassisted swim; a 25-meter fully-equipped swim; a blind board, which required participants to fall three meters into the water while blindfolded; a “don and ditch” which required the removal of gear while underwater; and a five-minute water tread.
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Clarke, who oversees Knichel as the Area II section chief, said the event also allowed for a chance to educate the public on what the National Guard is and does.
“It was a community event that brought to light the significant role the Army National Guard plays in our communities,” Clarke said. “It is imperative that we do events in the community that show our presence.”
Eighteen lifeguards participated in the event, as well as the pool manager and aquatic director, and 30 members of the public participated in a modified “National Guard Games,” according to Knichel. He explained that the modified version included the blind board, a buddy rescue and an underwater equipment recovery which required participants to dive and recover an ammo can weighing approximately 30 pounds.
Knichel said his favorite part of the experience was having the city director of aquatics participate in the challenge while motivating his lifeguards and “leading by example.”
Clarke said his favorite part was the set-up and how well the event was run.
“It is a testament to the relationship and credibility Staff Sgt. Knichel has built within his recruiting area of operations,” Clarke said.
Knichel said, overall, the event went really well, and both he and the City of Lynchburg are looking forward to continuing the event for years to come.