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Deputies take on rope challenge

Dep. Troy Christenson bravely crossed a swinging walkway by himself to lead the troops 30 feet in the air. It was supposed to be a two-person exercise but there were an odd number of deputies, and no one volunteered to play Indiana Jones twice to give Christenson a partner. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 8
Emergency Manager Brian Halbasch, at left, relies on Dep. Bill Schlag to guide him across a tightrope to a safety platform. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 8
Deputies engaged in a deceptively simple task of raising a plastic pole with only their index fingers while keeping it level. They learned it, too, was a difficult task requiring teamwork and concentration.(Sarah Smith / Enterprise)3 / 8
Mike Mercil gives a hand to Jarod Andersen as they scale the 30-foot rope ladder. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)4 / 8
Colter Diekmann is all smiles as he takes the plunge down the zipline. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)5 / 8
Dan May hoists Dan Kruchowski up the rope ladder, the most difficult event, the deputies agreed. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)6 / 8
Adam Williams and Jeff Stacey momentarily lose control of the rope ladder laughing.(Sarah Smith / Enterprise)7 / 8
Brian Halbasch helps Greg Swanstrom up a 30-foot rope ladder. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)8 / 8

A dozen of Hubbard County's finest tested their strength and agility Wednesday in a team building and trust exercise.

Most of the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department reported for duty at the Character Challenge Course on Hubbard County Road 40, a high rope exercise course that also tested their lungs.

They learned they scream like little girls when they're terrified.

Sheriff Cory Aukes paid for the training himself and was quick to note each deputy took unpaid time off to attend the afternoon session, in which deputies and sergeants worked together 30 feet above ground on precarious footing, crossing rope bridges, walking tightropes, climbing rope ladders and scaling walls.

Aukes said he wanted his troops to learn to work together, since most are on patrol duty alone. Although they back each other up during emergencies, they rarely get the opportunity to work together in a large group or intermingle.

They caught on quickly.

They yelled encouragement to each other, laughed at each other, joked to relieve the stress.

But mostly they worked hard as teams of twos or as a group to conquer their fears and conquer the challenging course.

They left exhilarated, certain each co-worker had their backs.

"I really wanted them to do this for the camaraderie," Aukes said. The team building exercises were a bonus.

The department has come a long way in the past year, when flagging morale led to Aukes' election last November.

The troops even joked with the sheriff, who monitored the activity from the earth. Many teased him about checking the weight limit of the course, and upon finding he exceeded it, opted for camera duty on the solid ground.

And course facilitator Sarah Coumbe-Guida assured him he could participate, girth notwithstanding.

"I'll tell you what, the officers thought it was great for building trust for one another. I heard that come out their mouths," Aukes said after the course was completed. "They thought it was a very challenging course that even brought a fear factor for some of them.

"They were very impressed with how the course brought out the need for a partner, even many partners at certain times and how working as a team is for the most part the easiest way to accomplish your goal," Aukes added.

"They don't have the opportunity to work as a group very often," the sheriff said. "They always have partners on (duty) and I hope they look at the fact that we don't always have t do things alone and they do have the opportunity to ask for help. They see the need for doing that.

"I felt that the course and its team concept would be very well suited for our line of work and that and the potential of some camaraderie between the officers made me make the inquiry."

Aukes had high praise for Coumbe-Guida and Bill Bugge3rt, who led the course exercises.

"They were great and knew just how to deal with our group," Aukes said. "I thought it was great watching Sarah, all by herself, bring absolute fear to the deputies at times and yet they all overcame all the obstacles thrown at them and accomplished what they needed to do."

Once officers got to the zipline, the screams had subsided, to be replaced by shouts of unbridled joy.

And a reinvigorated force returned to work.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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