Staffer challenges ‘Yomp,’ self in epic trek

Paul Mayne // Western News

Facilities Management grounds worker George Rawski treks to Scotland this weekend, taking on the Commando Spirit’s Survive the Yomp, an arduous 48-kilometre hike across tough Scottish terrain while carrying a 50-pound commando pack. The event, which must be completed in eight hours, emulates the final test faced by every Royal Marine recruit in order to be awarded the coveted Green Beret. A fundraiser for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund, which helps soldiers and their families, is also part of the weekend.

Despite trekking across the Scottish Highlands, George Rawski’s next adventure will be no cakewalk – a 48-kilometre journey on foot through rivers, over bridges and across hills and valleys, all while wearing a 50-pound pack, and completed in just eight hours.

This weekend, Rawski, a Facilities Management grounds worker since 2010, is taking part in the Commando Spirit’s Survive the Yomp, an arduous hike across tough Scottish terrain carrying a full commando kit, which emulates the final test faced by every Royal Marine recruit in order to be awarded the coveted Green Beret.

“Maybe it’s a bucket list, or mid-life crisis. I am turning 50 this year,” Rawski laughed about his quest. “I still have a little youth left in me – maybe not too much.”

Yomp participants are pushed to the edge of their physical and psychological limitations as they experience the commando qualities required of one of the world’s most elite forces in the iconic and gruelling terrain around Achnacarry, Scotland, where commandos have trained since the Second World War.

Mud, sweat and tears lie ahead for Rawski. But he is ready for it.

At work, he is constantly on the move. He also prepared for the event by occasionally walking home from work, in full gear, to Komoka, a planned 25-kilometre route.

“People have asked me why I’m doing this. I’ve worked with a lot of coalition forces and have always compared how they do their fitness tests compared to us. I thought, ‘You know, I’d like to bring myself to their standards,’” said Rawski, a military police reservist who served a tour in Afghanistan in 2007. “They (Royal Marines) have very high standards and are one of the most elite infantries.”

As well as testing mental and physical endurance, the Yomp raises funds for the work of the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund, which helps wounded and injured soldiers by providing support for those still serving by funding decompression activities, homecoming events and memorials. The fund also supports those who have left the Corps or have lost loved ones.

“When I told friends what I was doing and what the fundraising was for, they didn’t hesitate in writing me a cheque, even knowing the money was not staying in Canada,” Rawski said, “A solider is a soldier, regardless of what uniform we’re wearing. They risk their all for us.”

While in Afghanistan, he worked with soldiers from around the world.

“If I had to pick a unit to be part of all over again, it would be the Royal Marines,” Rawski said. “I’ve worked with them overseas and they’re a classy bunch of guys. They always mix in a lot of laughter, no matter how poor the conditions at the time, and that’s the one thing I took from them. It was my kind of style.”

So, is Rawski confident he can complete what only a handful of elite soldiers have done?

“Oh, I’m going to finish, regardless if I’m crawling. I’m not wasting a flight to Scotland for nothing,” he said. “For my own personal accomplishments, you see a lot of friends getting older, guys retiring and, sadly, dying shortly thereafter. I don’t want that for me.

“You put your best foot forward and hopefully that adrenaline kicks in. You think about what someone like Terry Fox went through, what our soldiers go through and what wouldn’t they do to have their legs back? Who cares about the heat, or the pain, or the sore feet.”