This is a WoT type of report of my personal impressions from my participation in GoRuck Stealth Ops in Vienna. I pieced this together with the help of Google Maps timeline and the help of my fellow Spec Ops team members of both factions. For those lacking the patience or just want the fact sheet, I appended a TL;DR type summary at the end (you might have to scroll a bit). ;) It is as accurate as I can remember, I will have missed some stuff, shuffled some exercises around the wrong way, but it’s enough to get you an impression at least (I hope).
-- The long version --
What happens at GoRuck, stays at GoRuck? That was the impression I got when I briefly searched for reports about GoRuck Ingress Ops. Even when interviewing past participants, the results were lacking: "It was exhausting." Now here I was, badge junkie that I am, contemplating on what to do, sign up or not? I wanted those badges, so originally I signed up for only doing stealth ops and afterwards taking part in the anomaly. Talking to my favorite smurf-opponent from Norway, I learned that he also was planning to do the GoRuck stealth ops and both of us joked about doing the double, stealth and urban, in one session. It didn't take long and we both opted in for urban also.
I did not know much about GoRuck before signing up, just the usual complaints: "too expensive", "don't want to be shouted at", "lol, doing pushups?" or "paramilitary BS". That didn't stop me, it sounded interesting, staying up all night doing stuff sounded like a challenge I could handle and... did I say badges, yet? (if you skip reading all of it, please make sure to at least read my comment on badges at the end of this WoT)
Now, you're supposed to bring a bunch of things to a GoRuck stealth ops event, like a head lamp, a 9kg weight in your backpack, 2 liters of water, etc. all of which weren't really an issue, except for the weight, as I was travelling by plane. Just to clear one common question up: the 9kg weight go on top of everything you’re supposed to bring (like 2L of water = 2kg, spare cloth, backpack, etc.). Luckily the orgs of both ENL and RES teamed up to equip agents with self-made sand bags, basically the volume of 7 litres play sand stuffed into a garbage bag stuffed into another garbage bag for safety. The end result sometimes looked like a drug pack out of a movie, luckily no agents were searched by the police during GoRuck ops. xD
When I first put on my now heavier backpack, I thought to myself: "well this isn't too bad" and fortunately, this remained true for the duration of most of both ops. Then again, being a heavy person, 9kg for me is a mere increase, whereas I was impressed of how some if the tiny girls handled their rucks, as they easily added 15-20% to their own body weight. I didn’t hear one complaint from any girl of any fraction, so kudos to you gals!
At the beginning of the stealth ops, our Cadre Brian ‘Squared’, a former US Force Reconnaissance Marine, introduced himself and his two helpers (+Joel Phillips
and +Roc Myers
). Then he gave us basic instructions, answered all agent questions from both factions and then had both faction team leaders arrange their agents in two rows for backpack inspection, in order to make sure that we brought what was required (especially the water to drink and to check the backpacks weight). After that we started with some warmups: jumping jacks, push ups, split squats, 6 90s and some more I cannot remember anymore. At least in this GoRuck, exercises are done with one lead exerciser from one of the teams doing the cadence and at the end the whole team will say the repetition, for example in pushups, the lead will go: move down, say “one”, push up, say “two”, move down, say “three”, push up, everyone will say the current repetition. We almost exclusively did 15 reps, so in pushups terms using cadence, that’s 30 pushups. A note to those that think they cannot handle on or more of the exercises: while I am good at walking and lifting stuff, I suck at running and jumping up from the floor. However, that is not an issue, as long as you try to keep up and do your best. Nobody will yell at you, nobody will “punish” you or something like that. You’re supposed to go to your limits, if that is 5 pushups, 10 jumping jacks, then that’s it. If you have a condition like a bad knee and cannot perform certain exercises, nobody will force you. Yes, most Cadre are ex-military, most have special training, most have seen real combat action, but while GoRuck is about pushing yourself to your own limit, it is NOT about breaking you down, to then reassemble you in another fashion. That at least is my impression. It didn’t even feel at all like “boot camp”.
During the proceedings of stealth ops, both faction teams were to compete over 4 pieces of intel that would help the winning faction in the anomaly. Each competition took form in a physical contest, the outturn deciding which team will get the piece of intel. The first intel contest took place directly after warmup and in this case, the task was to have an equal number of agents from both factions “bunnyhop” up a flight of stairs. Bunnyhopping means you need to keep your feet together and hop forward, no walking or normal climbing of stairs allowed. Once an agent arrived at the top of the stairs he or she walked back down normally and the next in line was allowed to follow. Both teams had to do two iterations and ENL finished just ahead of RES and this won the first piece of intel of the night. Since teams sizes were different, 17 ENL vs 14 RES, 3 ENL agents got a break during the competition. One could argue that this is unfair in terms of bigger teams automatically have the more rested players for the competitions, but I’m fairly certain that since we got to rest up a little before every competition and in between everyone had to carry his load and more, this isn’t a sound argument.
Up until now we were still at the starting point, but it was time to move on. Both team leaders were given the location of a target in 2,5km distance, the Russian war hero monument at Heumarkt, to move their teams to within 30 minutes. If a team was to take longer than the allotted timeframe, a contest could start without it and the victory automatically being awarded to the only team at the target destination. This hasn’t happened all night, so I can’t comment much on that, other than it being an incentive to keep teams from slacking too much and breaking the event plan. Each team was accompanied by at least one of the three GoRuck employees. So, on we went for the first small stretch of quite a bit of walking for the night. We were allowed to play ingress while moving, but as the night proceeded I took out my scanner less and less. I guess the point of the first walk was to acclimate agents with their heavy backpacks and have teams get to know each other better.
When we arrived at Heumarkt, we were given a few minutes to rest up. Then it was time for some competitions. The first competition was to get 5 members (if I remember correctly) from each team to compete in a planking battle. Winning condition: have at least one member still plank, while the other team wasn’t anymore. Another competition was for keeping your legs stretched out and keeping your feet just above ground. The last competition was the so called tunnel of love. Basically this means, all members get to plank in a row and the farthest on the right gets to crawl under the whole line of plankers and go into planking position at the end of the line, once he/she is through the tunnel of love. Now, I thought these competitions were over another piece of intel, however this wasn’t the case, as the winning team, in this case it was RES got a 10pack of 10x Ultra Strike passcodes. If I have one complaint about GoRuck and Ingress, it’s that the mini competition passcode were a joke. Ultra strikes are easily hackable, even though I do see the point for passcodes in larger scale operations, this was kind of a letdown passcode wise for everyone present.
I was expecting another fast paced walk after this, however, the task ahead wasn't simple walking with heavy backpacks, but instead we were shown how to carry a person, alone or with three people. Each team had to assign a new team leader, the old ones being dismissed (Brian: “Got job, you’re fired!”), in case of ENL, I volunteered, as TLs weren't allowed to be casualties and probably being the heaviest person in my team, I did not want my team to have to carry me around (in hindsight I am certain they could have even pulled that off!). We were then assigned one casualty for each faction team and TLs were given one waypoint in 1,7km distance (Haus des Meeres) to go to and take a group picture as proof that we were there and then move to another location another 1,7km away afterwards (Reiterstandbild Erzherzog Karl). We were given a 90 minute time limit for a distance of about 4km. Both teams choose to carry their casualty with three carriers. Again ENL had 17 agents, RES just 14, however RES had lighter players in their team, which evened out our advantage in numbers. As TL it was my task to get my team safely to the waypoints, make sure the team stayed together, carriers were being switched out, so that they could rest up a little (while still continuing to walk on), shuffle carrier backpacks around the other team members to lighten their loads and so on. Luckily my team members self-organized quickly, so I was left to navigating and making sure carriers weren't exhausting themselves too much. When we arrived at the first waypoint after 10 minutes, I decided to take a 10min break, while RES immediately continued on, figuring that the second waypoint being closer than the first, 45mins was enough time. Luckily I hadn't miscalculated and we arrived at our final waypoint in time, where Cadre gave us 10mins to catch our breath.
By now it was around 2am and I started to get tired and also cold, as we only had 5°C or so left on the scale. During our break, I noticed my favorite smurf chewing away at some candy bar and asked him where he got it. He pointed at a car and told me, local RES players supplied water, fruit and snacks for their team. Well, points go to RES for team support. Luckily we had one ENL guy follow us all night that already did the Stealth+Urban double in Madrid and he got us coffee and some snacks. I still don’t know who you were, but the coffee REALLY(!) helped me at that time!
While Ingress didn’t really matter much so far, the next two competitions for intel took place here and they included Ingress, well at least directly in one case, the other… introducing offline human glyph game! We got two minutes to setup 11 rucksacks to represent the pins in the Ingress glyph game. We were then given some sample glyph to get the hang of the game: agents had to lie down on the ground and be the lines connecting the pins to create the glyph. Now, easy, yes? Well, if you could actually WALK/RUN there, yes, maybe, but we were only allowed to “bear walk”. Bear walking is when you walk on your feet and hand in a crouched down position. Especially for people packing the beer keg internally in front of me, this is no easy thing to do! ;) Anyways, a lot of players know the glyphs, but do they always KNOW the correct names? I remember how I glyphed in the beginning giving names like “bullet” to shapers, MAOAM to portal, “flash” to message and “the other flash” to data. What I didn’t realize, many people do that still. I took the effort to actually learn all the glyphs a year ago, so we quickly formed a band of “true glyphers” to do the bear walk and I was the lucky person (beer belly and all) to stand on the statue pedestal and tell agents how many lines were needed and direct them. I’ll tell you this, this is one funny and hard thing to do. I had no problem finding the correct numbers, except for portal, which actually has 8 lines, not 6, like I shouted initially and most members luckily went to the correct spot right away, but directing players without knowing their names, from 10m away, them only having the flat view (which is useless for finding the correct links, try it while lying on the floor). Anyhow, ENL won the first two rounds of the two out of three competition, but the RES complained rightly, that their glyph field was 3 more meters out than ours and we went for a third round after they had corrected their positioning. It didn’t do them much good, being the worst round for them by far, so ENL took the second piece of intel. Afterwards we were told that we were the second ENL team tonight (first being Honk Kong a few hours before) to ever win the human glyph game (a victory to be followed up by ENL Urban ops lateron).
The second contest for intel was a good old two out of three cluster battle for 10 portals which were given to us by the GoRuck guys to battle over for 10 minutes when they would take two screenshots from both an iPhone and Android phone, just in case. New team leaders were elected, each faction was setup at opposing sides of the “cluster” and ran into the cluster at the beginning of the measurement. Well, and this is my personal experience and opinion, RES are very good at cluster battles, and they beat us to a 7:3 in the first round. We then switched sides (starting points) and tried again. Did I mention that I think that RES are good in cluster battles? Well, at least we managed to lose a little less badly, with 5:3:2 (2 being neutral portals), IIRC, but still, this piece of intel deservedly went to RES!
Despite the coffee I still was tired and also cold. No problem for our Cadre, as he got us sweating right away after this by adding another casualty to each team and giving us two more waypoints to go to, first being the Votivkirche in 1,3km and another in a rural are another 2,1km away. Again, new team leaders were elected. Now, while one casualty is fine for a team of 10+ agents (worst case you have 1 being carried, 3 carriers and 4 backpack to shuffle around), now we needed 6 carriers, 2 being carried and had 8 backpacks to shuffle around the rest. This time around I also did some carrying myself, either in the back position as there were two others guys that had the same shoulder height (makes it a lot easier for the person to be carried around), a few 100m in the front, but mostly I carried two backpacks at a time (mine and one backpack off one of the carrier team members). Needless to say that this interval was really tough, carriers tired faster resulting in a lot more breaks, lifting up the casualty and letting the casualty down again which is the most strenuous part of three man carry, sometimes it was hard to find a volunteer to replace a carrier, meaning more downtime and people were starting to hurt. Both teams made it to the Votivkirche at pretty much the same time. But afterwards we kind of lost track of the other team and thought them way ahead of us. When we finally arrived at our last waypoint, exhausted and sweating, we were surprised to find no one around and checked our coordinates, however we were, where we were supposed to be. After 10mins the RES team arrived from a different direction. We got a few minutes to rest up, but this rest was cut short by police arriving and asking us to leave the area. We had quite a few police encounters during our stops at the Russian war monument or the Erzherzog statue, but usually they just asked what we were up to and let us be. We even had police go past us while carrying people in three or one man carry, but luckily they never stopped us. It was really funny to see people look at us carrying people around, the look on their faces, priceless!
After the police politely told us to move away, we were given new team leaders yet again and the Stephansdom was assigned as target destination, which was 3,3km out. We were told to go in close ranks with no one falling behind and flag carrier had to be in front all the time. Up to now, the flag carrier has always been present, mostly somewhere in the front, but it didn’t really matter. Well, while RES did a bang job of walking in rows of two in a packed order, us ENL walked a little more loosely making it harder for our team leader, which in turn had to run back and forth in order to “get us in line”.
By the time we got to the Stephansdom I was full awake again, a state that would remain through Urban ops and even after that. I guess that is what they call a second wind. I have so far never experienced it, not as clearly anyway. At the dome we were given another break. When we wanted to continue on, one RES agent was late by a few minutes, so they got to do 15 pushups, while we got to stand and look. I guess, this kind of neglects the “no punishment” statement I made above, but that one was more pointed at the individual fearing to get shouted at, if he/she wasn’t able to perform in a certain way. I tried very hard not to smile too much at that, remembering too many films where this would have gotten someone like me at least the same “punishment”, but luckily after RES only pushups, both teams got to do “monkey fuckers”, a variation of your ordinary squat.
With the sun up again, we could almost see the end. We took a nice group photo at the Stephansdom and got to assign new leaders again. Next stop: Belvedere park, 2,3km away, for the last competition over intel during stealth ops. By now my feet were hurting quite a bit. Doing 100+ missions since arriving at Vienna on Wednesday morning, not getting the rest I had planned on ahead of GoRuck took it’s toll on my feet, having three blisters dressed in blister tape since Thursday morning didn’t help either. I much dreaded the point in time, when I would take off my shoes and take a look at my feet. So, we dragged on, spirits lifted by knowing that the event was closing to an end soon.
At Belvedere Park, we did a mini competition for another round of crappy US passcodes (seriously, even having to mention it again makes me kind of mad, lol) which involved planking (I think, I might have gotten this mixed up with urban ops, which took place at the same place later on). It’s amazing to see, how some people can do this for 5 and more minutes. Kudos to them. The last intel competition took form in a game they called the strongest portal. Each team had to center around a point and lift up their backpacks above their head. Once you weren’t able to hold it up anymore and that point was when one of your arms bend too much, you had to step out put your ruck back on and do an “elephant walk” with the other people that dropped out. Elephant walking is when you lean forward, extend your right hand backwards through your legs to connect to the left hand of the person behind you and grab the persons right hand in front of you with your left hand. Sadly I couldn’t really grab the bottom side of my ruck tightly enough, so that it slowly slipped out of my hand, as I would have much more liked to keep my backpack high that elephant walking, which is really uncomfortable (to me at least). Well, we had one guy in our team that does this kind of thing in his sleep it seems, so we also won the last piece of intel.
With just an hour to go we were really looking forward to getting this over with. With the starting point just 2,4km away, we figured it would be a nice walk back to the start, heads up high, tired, but proud faces for the innocent bystander to marvel over. Brian of course had another idea, why not have another casualty walk to the last waypoint? Oh well, so we scrapped what energy we had left, picked a casualty and three carriers and slowly made our way back to the starting point. RES really rushed through this, despite having the smaller team, they arrived a couple of minutes before we did. This last walk really called up our last reserves, but in the end we made it to the goal. Finally back at the point we started 12hrs earlier, we were exhausted but happy to have made it. During stealth ops I’ve seen some faces, where I wasn’t sure, if they would pull thru, but everyone that started 12hrs ago was still around. It was a team effort that everyone made it back safe and sound. Glad to have made it, both teams shook hands, then both teams formed into two ranks, to be addressed personally by the Acolyte, who gave both factions leaders a piece of paper with intel for their factions. Afterwards each one of us was awarded a GoRuck stealth ops Velcro badge by Brian.
I hope, I was able to give some of those interested in GoRuck Ingress Stealth Ops a view into what you can expect and that that will help you decide whether you want to participate or not. I think most people with a certain degree of fitness can do it. The main part is walking with added weight. You’ll find out where your personal limits are. You’ll find out that you too can pull through this and be a great experience richer because of it. I had a great team, most of us haven’t met before, yet we pulled formed into a great team, where everyone helped out as much as he could. Since a lot of us were made team leaders, we had the chance to refine our roles as such, learn that we needed to rely on others to help us achieve our goals, delegate jobs, be able to listen to advice and act on it where it was sound.
When I started out for this, it was about some shiny virtual 50x50px icon in a virtual game. When I finished this, it was about a personal experience, I’m glad I was able to make. The real GoRuck badge will always remind me of this awesome night, that begun with strangers and ended with a great team. So, if you have made it to read this far, I hope you’ll sign up for one of these events in the future, not for a virtual badge, not even for a real badge, but because of the experience you’ll have.
Oh and one last thing, about 5 agents of each faction team, including me, went on to do the Urban Ops, which I won’t report on (others have already). All of us that set out to do the double also finished it! Yeah, we are a little bit crazy! ;) And much to my surprise, my feet were actually still the same than when I started, no added blisters, just some hurt, haha.
-- The TL;DR version –
1) Meetup at starting point, registration, introductions, equipment check
2) physical exercise: jumping jacks, split squats, etc.
3) 1st intel competition: bunnyhopping up stairs, ENL wins first piece of intel
4) Walk for 2,5km to Russian war memorial
5) more physical execise, competition for 10packs of 10x US passcodes
6) casualty walk, each team to carry one person in one or three person mode for 2,1km to Haus des Meeres, take picture, continue 1,7km to Statue des Erzherzogs Karl
7) 2nd intel competition: human glyph game, ENL wins 2:0, extra round after rightful RES intervention due to glyph field distance differentials, ENL wins extra round by 20sec, gets second piece of intel
8) 3rd intel competition: cluster battle over 10 portals 10vs10 agents, RES outperforms ENL 7:3 and 5:3 (2 neutral) and wins third piece of intel
9) casualty walk, now with two casualties per team for 1,3km to Votivkirche and then another 2,1km to a residential area
10) Walk for 3,3km to Stephansdom, no casualties
11) physical exercise, group picture
12) Walk for 2,3km to Bevedere Park
13) 4th intel competition: strongest portal game, ENL takes the last piece of intel
14) Casualty walk, one casualty per team, for 2,4km to starting point
15) The Acolyte addresses both teams, afterwards GoRuck Cadre Brian awards the badge
Total distance covered: 17,7km (6,2km of which with one casualty, 3,4km with two casualties) +Anne Beuttenmüller