Selection 002 – And Then There Was Kling

I met Kling at the Atlanta Scavenger two weeks before Selection Class 002. Rule #1 in full effect with the shades and all, but you never know what someone has inside of them till life gets real. And life got real at 002. 19 people started, but 24 hours in – with 24+ hours to go – Roster #009 (aka Kling) was the only one left. Selection is not about being better than the rest and it’s not a race – it’s about a standard. If you meet it, great. If you don’t, better luck next time. As Cadre, our job is to enforce the standard. We’re cold, callous, and methodical – same as our Cadre were to us back in the day. Truth be told, we want you to succeed, we want you to overcome, and we can show you how – at the Challenge. At Selection, you find out if you can make it alone, not how to make it together.

Lou texted me and then there was one when it was down to Kling. I was rooting for the guy – who wasn’t? – even as 8 of us took turns thrashing him over and over again. I love his story because I think he’s a testament to the fact that people are a lot stronger than they ever think. He endured a massacre and came out a better, stronger person. And my hope is that he’ll put what he learned about himself to good use. He knows what I’m talking about.  The rest of this post is entirely in his words.

I was stunned when I found out I was the only one left! Cadre Chris had been drilling us hard, and was blasting Petrizzo because he was a split second slower than me. “On your feet! On your belly! Low crawl! High crawl!!” Chris was relentless!! We were told to high crawl back into the water, and I was lying in the surf when I heard Chris tell me to stand up and turn around. He shined his flashlight down on the sand and asked, “what is this??” He was shining it on the tracks from our high crawls. One set went to the water, one did not. I looked at Chris and said, “where did he go?”

I was really surprised Petrizzo dropped. Kovac, Petrizzo and I talked on the march back from the zodiac about how there were three of us left (I think we were thinking about the three from 001) and we could make it. We’d stay together and push through the last 24 hours! It hurt to watch Kovac fall. That guy is awesome, and to see him in the sand, that sucked. I thought Petrizzo still had some gas in his tank, it felt like we were together for most of the stuff after Kovac left. I was definitely surprised to turn around and see no one but Chris standing on the beach. As for being alone against the Seven Psychos with over 24 hours to go?? I was okay with that. Looking back, it might have been nice to have someone there to distract the Cadre. But then, in the sand, I knew I could carry the burden. I knew I would survive. I focused on the task at hand, whatever it was, and just tried to push forward.

To back up a little bit, I wasn’t sure what the Cadre had in store for us to kick off 002 but I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.  It sucked.  Immediately I regretted my decision to be here.  “Why are you doing this??  Why are you here??  You’ve done multiple Challenges!! What are you trying to prove?? This sucks dude!!”  My brain said all these things to me.  And then I told it to STFU because we weren’t going home.  We weren’t going to be warm for a long time. This is going to suck.  Get used to it.  The first night was a long one.  So long that I started to wonder if the Cadre controlled the sun.  I remember looking at the horizon, willing the sun to come up.  I was cold, wet, and tired, and needed some warmth.  The sun came up eventually, I think it was around nine or ten am.

The second night was rough, not as cold as the first, but it was still a rough night for me.  Exhaustion, hunger, sleep deprivation all took a toll.  I was a mess and I knew it.  I also knew there was nothing I could do so I kept pressing forward.  Left foot right foot, left foot right foot.  Keep pushing. I was asleep on my feet.  At one point I was told to run down the beach and report to the next Cadre.  I had slowed to a walk and was out of it.  I opened my eyes to find I had turned left and was walking toward the water.  That messed with my head a little.  I KNEW that I was out of it, and couldn’t do anything about it.  Left foot, right foot.

Sunrise was nice.  While mentally preparing for Selection I thought about it as four sections of a course.  The sunrise on Saturday let me know that I was entering the last section.  I was happy.  And then Dan said let’s go for a walk.  I was tired and sore and my legs were destroyed.  Walking was a task.  My lower legs were cramped and swollen in ways I’ve never felt.  Sand and chafing were an issue.  I had sand in places that don’t see the sun, and that was REALLY uncomfortable.  My back and traps were worn out.  But I was on the last day, so I went for a walk with Dan.  It was a long walk.  I read Dan’s write-up about Selection, I knew that I had to take care of my feet.  I brought socks, lots of socks, and changed them when I thought best.  Even with strategic sock changing my feet were still worn out.  The long walk was tiring and monotonous.  I don’t remember a lot of specifics, just that the beach seemed never-ending.  I guess it was meant to grind me down, and it did.

It pays to be a winner.  You’ll hear people say it.  You’ll hear the Cadre say it.  It’s a fact.  It was worth the extra effort every time because avoiding the punishment gave me just a little bit of time to recover.  I’ve found that any extra time you have that allows your body to rest and recover before the next evolution will pay dividends.  I didn’t have to be first every time, but I refused to ever be last.

The sight of all the Cadre gathered on the beach in front of the team house was such a welcome sight!!  I smiled inside, a few hundred yards and I was finished!  A few hundred yards and I could take off my GR2!  A few hundred yards and it would be dinnertime!!

I was wrong.  It almost seems comical now, did I really think the Cadre would just give me a high five at the end of this walk and say “good job 009!”??  Under promise, over deliver.  The Cadre delivered alright.  That last hour and change of Selection was insane, as if nothing I was doing was good enough or fast enough!  Sand. Water. Up. Down. Cadre, Cadre EVERYWHERE, all Seven and Devin showed up (thanks buddy), THAT was nuts!! Repeat. Faster 009!!  HTFU 009!!  They made me fight for it until the end. Eight of the baddest dudes on the planet screaming at you, man that was intense!

The Cadre are CRAZY!!  Sharks, pack of wolves, whatever you want to call them, they are NOT normal!! And coming in, I knew Selection was not going to be a Challenge.  After seeing Class 000 I knew that Selection was going to be far more intense than I had thought when I signed up.  When training for Challenges, you roughly know what you’re getting into (mileage, distance, teamwork, etc.). All I knew was to expect at least 48 hours of Hell.  So I thought about that.  I thought about Selection every day in the lead up to it.  I thought about hurting, screaming Cadre, quitting, others quitting, and persevering.  I thought about these things every day.  I grew a beard.  I called it my tactical beard and its sole purpose was assisting me in surviving Selection.  It was a great beard (just ask Chris), the most badass beard I’d ever had, because Selection was going to be the toughest thing I’d ever done!

The end was awesome! It was so great to put my GR2 on the deck for the last time! The light shining on the American flag, the other Selectees, the Cadre smiling and not screaming at me anymore, man it was a good feeling.

I was asked what I thought about during Selection, what kept me going.  I thought about my family and friends at home and that there was no way that I could return to them without the Selection patch in my hand.  I had trained for this, invested time and money in this.  I had cut out parts of my social life. I significantly cut back on drinking and partying (Hey, I’m a bartender!).  Selection was what I thought about when I woke up and when I went to sleep.  I thought about a conversation in Savannah a few months ago where a friend looked at me and said, “don’t quit.”  I thought about all my friends that believed in me, that told me they KNEW I would pass Selection.  There was no way in Hell that I was going to quit.  It was never an option.


  1. CageyT (KGTidball) says:

    What you accomplished is a testament to your resolve, and to “the standard.” Of course, “the standard” has to do with whole other layers of commitment, sacrifice, honor, and courage… and you look damn good in that last pic with the stars and stripes behind you. I look forward to what you will accomplish in the future.

  2. Jess Orestano says:

    Words can’t describe you Kling! I got to the end of your post and out loud wow-ed. You’re an inspiration and a true GRT.

  3. Candace Appleton-Kuntz says:

    Awesome story and as others have said very inspirational! I followed the posts throughout selection and everyone was on the edge of our seats waitin to hear about the last man standing!!! What an accomplishment!

  4. Dan Rossmann says:

    I have known Kling for about 6 years now. When I first met him, he was a skinny bartender up to no good. I have seen him grow over the years and have seen him explode in the fitness industry. Watching him train and encourage others in life and in the gym. Its no surprise that Kling conquered this challenging event. All I have to say is, congrats man. You make all of us better and help us reach our goals. Even though you paint our toe nails green… ha! lol.. If you’re ever in Macon, GA. Hit Kling up. He trains with a great group of guys at Rush Mixed Martial Arts.

  5. Noodles says:

    Your Selection was amazing to watch as it unfolded. GRT have an idea that what you were doing is an incredible test. None of us who haven’t lined up for Selection know what it was you actually did, but we all knew you were out there. Alone. but we were all behind you- if there was a way we could have collectively willed you to the finish we would have.
    In the end it was just you. Be proud of that man, cause there are people you have never met that respect the shit outta what you accomplished!

  6. TK says:

    That is just outFUCKINGstanding work man! For you its not just GORUCK Tough, its GORUCK Badass.
    The beard is epic!

  7. Mom says:

    What an incredible challenge you set for yourself & met in a standard only YOU would set. I am so proud of you, & for you, for being able to stick it out to the end. Your family & friends believed in you, giving you just a little bit more whatever to believe in yourself. Dan is right – you went from a skinny man-child into a full man who has been tested & found to be worthy (except for that puky green nail polish) of meeting the challenges ahead in your life. 143.

  8. Worth says:

    Saying I am proud of you is an understatement in every sense of the word, but I cannot think of any word that truly does you justice. Your determination and zest for life has been such an inspiration to me and I am so blessed to call you a friend. I am beyond thrilled for your success in Selection! I never once doubted that you would not only complete the hellish 48 hours, but that you would do so in classic Kling-style. 🙂 Congratulations many times over for your accomplishment, Eric! Love you!

  9. Jason F says:

    This story is one that inspires me to meet the caricature of myself that I see in my mind, the one who puts limits on himself through fear and doubt, and defeat him.

  10. Yami says:

    Totally distracted by his amazing body! Wow. Anyway back to my brain…, the more I read the more I want to do this! I’ve read Dan’s write up about selection training, would love to also read Kling’s because the Cadre’s keep getting crazier with every new iteration of this! Empowered!

  11. Walt Hewett says:

    This story, this amazing feat has opened my eyes when I thought there was darkness! The illustration really pushes me, challenges my manhood to plant my feet and stand firm and most of all FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT! Wow what a great story I’m also from Macon Ga. so I’m sure we’ve crossed paths! And little did i know “YOU’RE A BEAST WITH IT” Great Job Mr. Kling

  12. Dad says:

    Eric has grown into a great man with incredible inter-strength. Watching him grow up has made me so proud to be a part of his life (yes, not only the highs, but the lows too). When he sets his mind to doing something, there is no changing it – no matter who you are (yes, this includes his mom and I).

    He’s a big fish in a pond that has gotten much bigger. As we all know, the only easy day was yesterday. I am proud to be able to call him son and look forward to hearing about the next adventure…

  13. Rebecca says:

    Beast it! Nice beard by the way and you did an amazing job… I’m contemplating trying this now. Congratulations Kling!

    -Keep the beard ; )

  14. Kay Ann Robinson McKay says:

    Hi Eric.
    I am very proud of you! You have reminded me that I can be stronger, healthier, and go for my hopes and dreams, proud to say I was apart of your life, will never forget those walk’s to school, in Hawaii. proud Nanny,alway’s Kay.

  15. Frank says:

    You’re an unbelievable inspiration. Pure, unadulterated badassery on display there. I’d be honored to be served a drink by you Mr. Kling! I’m sure the sense of pride and accomplishment helped the healing tremendously. Congratulations!

  16. Dustin says:

    Kling just wanted to tell you that you are now part of a very few amazing individuals on this earth who now possess a separation from the sheep of our society and can now count yourself as a sheep dog!!! Wow!! your story should be an inspiration to everyone who ever doubted themselves at any moment in life. They should look at your story and when life throws them to the ground they should remember your story stand up and punch life square in the nose and power through!!! Because the only easy day was yesterday my friend. Congrats!! job well done!!

  17. Anil A says:

    Inspiring read, clearly the power of the beard guided and protected you.

    Is that the new Goruck Messenger I see?

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