GORUCK America: Steel City Ruck Club’s Whiskey Rebellion

GORUCK America: Steel City Ruck Club’s Whiskey Rebellion

TLDR: This AAR (After Action Report) encompasses 3 different events hosted by Steel City Ruck Club and there are a ton of photos of all that Good Livin’, so the writeup is understandably lengthy. The bottom line is that all three events were tremendously well-planned and implemented, and a great time was had by all. Grab a beverage and strap in.

- Doug Stryker

The concept for this event series began back in 2020 when GORUCK HQ asked Ruck Club Leaders to submit ideas for events. Steel City Ruck Club co-leaders Kristi Devenyi and Caitlin Eiben wanted to have an event about the Whiskey Rebellion, a piece of history that took place in the Pittsburgh area. In March of 2021, Caitlin decided to put on a double Basic and Scavenger custom event weekend with this colorful theme. The remainder of 2021 involved a great deal of planning and logistics, and registration surged to the point of needing 3 Cadre. Caitlin budgeted not just for the cost of the event itself but also for "extras" like special coupons, a photographer, gifts for the Cadre, and an after-party with raffles and prizes.

To get everyone in the spirit before the events, there was a whiskey exchange where participants each brought a bottle of local or hard-to-find/unique whiskey in the price range of $40-60.

The first event was the Whiskey Rebellion Basic and it stepped off at 1800 Friday evening. It took place at the Oliver Miller Homestead, an 18th century homestead where key events of the Whiskey Rebellion took place. 100 people signed up with 77 showing up to put in the work. During the admin phase, Caitlin, Kristi, and Tim walked around and accepted donations from participants who were willing to donate their “quitter’s cash” in exchange for tickets to a raffle for a goodwerks Boogie Bag with matching pouches. Combined with some pre-sales, they raised $2,320 for the Oliver Miller Homestead (the largest donation the Homestead has ever received).

The class was lined up based on height and then split into three groups: Welcome Party, Whiskey Rebellion history, and Oliver Miller Homestead tour. Each segment was 30 minutes long and I split my time between all three groups to get photos of each.

The folks doing the Welcome Party carried a variety of coupons up and down the field as well as some GORUCK classics like “I’m up, he sees me, I’m down.”

The second group had the chance to hear the history of the Whiskey Rebellion, as told by subject matter experts who volunteer at the Oliver Miller Homestead.

The third group learned the history of the Miller property itself and the volunteers imparted details about life in the colonial days and the kind of skills required to thrive.

After the Welcome Party, the class was broken into two teams: SCRC and everyone else from out of town. I accompanied the SCRC team into the woods. We rucked about a mile and then stopped at a large black cherry tree which had fallen across the path. Cadre Dan reached into one of the sandbags the team was carrying and produced a “shmainshmaw,” which he used to cut the freshly-fallen tree into a 27-foot coupon.

The team then had to carry this monster down the hill and out of the woods. Amateur arborists estimated it to weigh at least 2,500 lbs. It took 30+ people to carry!

After the tree was transported out of the woods, we reconnected with the other team who had been carrying the coupon assortment up and down Buffalo Hill. The reunited class then went back to fetch the tree and carry it and all the coupons to a local park, where the team was split back into three teams.

Cadre Dan’s team did stair climbs in between history lessons. Cadre Whiskey Mike’s team did ruck PT in the dirt of a baseball diamond. Cadre JC’s team did buddy carries around the half mile running track. Each team took a turn with each Cadre so that everyone got plenty of Good Livin’.

Then it was time to ruck back to the start point as it was about 2300. The class left the tree at the park but carried all the coupons back. Throughout this evolution, there was too much chatter for Cadre JC’s liking, so he announced that the remainder of this trip would be made in silence. That made switch outs on the heavier coupons like the curb much more challenging, but the team managed to make it happen.

We reached the start point a little after midnight and Cadre JC asked if everyone would be returning for the second Basic in the morning because he wasn’t going to patch the class tonight. The few that were only doing the first Basic received their patches and then he dismissed the class.

The second Basic started at 6:00am Saturday morning. The class was again broken into three teams, one for each Cadre, and everyone moved out. I accompanied Cadre Whiskey Mike’s team and we rucked into the woods carrying a portion of the coupons where he led a discussion about the excise tax that was levied in order to pay off the Revolutionary War, which is what led to the Whiskey Rebellion. The participants then did some ruck PT. We rucked back to the start point and the team rotated to the next Cadre.

I switched to Cadre Dan’s group and the team carried “the curb,” a barrel, and some other coupons into the woods where he used the “shmainshmaw” to cut a smaller tree (3-4 person carry) for the team to add to their load. Before the team moved out with the log, there was more to learn about the Whiskey Rebellion and the battles that went on in the very woods we were navigating. The elevation and the uneven nature of the trails made things challenging but it was doable.

Cadre JC took the third team into the woods where he taught them about the nature of combat and ambushes. He gave some instruction on how to use the terrain to quickly build the kind of tactical concealment that the “Whiskey Rebels” may have constructed at the time of their conflict with federal troops.

After all three teams had done a rotation with each of the Cadre, everyone headed back to the field near the start point. Cadre JC divided everyone into two teams and had everyone drop their rucks in a line in the center of the field, then sent them to opposite ends of the field, facing each other. Each team was to take turns sending one member to the center of the field to retrieve their ruck, put it on, and run back to their line. The first team to get everyone rucked up would be the winner. I did a Facebook Live to share the Endex with GORUCK Nation while fellow shadow Eric Perry captured photos of the relay race that ensued.

After the race concluded, everyone circled all three Cadre for a final message and a toast. Cadre Dan thanked Caitlin for planning such a great series of events and told us how much being back in Pittsburgh meant to him. He then presented Caitlin and Kristi with a custom team weight that was made for him by an OG Pittsburgh GRT; he has brought it with him to every drivable event for over 10 years. It was an emotional moment.

Cadre Dan then directed everyone to go join Cadre JC at the fountain up the hill in order to be patched. He had put all the patches from the first Basic into the fountain and told everyone that once they found their first patch, he’d give them their second patches. (Hey, it’s not a GORUCK event if you don’t get wet, right?) It was a unique patching ceremony to say the least.

After everyone received their patches for both Basics, we headed back down the hill for the rest of ENDEX where Caitlin and Kristi presented the Cadre with gifts that included a Boogie Bag from goodwerks, a handmade growler, and some whiskey (of course!). But the Cadre weren’t the only ones to get gifts: all the participants were given their choice of three packaged shots of Country Hammer Moonshine.

We all were dismissed for the day, knowing that the Scavenger on Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm was up next.

At the Scavenger start point, Cadre Dan briefed everyone on the rules and handed out the waypoints. We all headed out for a fun walking tour of the Cultural District of downtown Pittsburgh, past murals, distilleries, iconic sandwich shops, and a 99 year old ice cream parlor. Lots of fun!

Before long, everyone had finished their photos and shenanigans and headed over to Kingfly for the after-party. Caitlin had booked the upper floor of the distillery and there was plenty of Tex-Mex food as well as a cash bar.

Cadre Dan announced the winner of the Scav, who became the recipients of blaze orange Boogie Bags which were donated by Tim Galloway, SCRC member and owner of goodwerks. Then all three Cadre patched the Scavenger class and the festivities began in earnest.

All in all, this was one of the best GORUCK events I’ve experienced. Huge kudos to Caitlin, Kristi, and Cadre Dan for their meticulous planning and execution of these custom events, as well as Cadre Whiskey Mike and Cadre JC who also brought it to life in epic fashion!

GORUCK America is an ongoing initiative where GRHQ sends a member of our team to visit a Ruck Club and help build community in the real world. Doug Stryker, our Ruck Club Community Manager, traveled to Pittsburgh for Steel City Ruck Club’s custom double Basic and Scavenger events.

NOTE: All professional-looking photos in this AAR are courtesy of @steel.city.shadow. The rest are from me and the other shadows who used our cellphones.