By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SCW/AW) Stan Travioli
BOBLINGEN, Germany (NNS) -- As part of their individual culture of fitness and SEAL Ethos, nine U.S. Navy SEALs completed a successful eight-day climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, July 26, which proved to be a very personal experience for one of the participants.
"There are plenty of people who do it http://community.active.com/blogs/SEALSWCC.com_Recruiters/2009/08/28/news-seals-reach-peak-of-personal-fitness-aims-on-kilimanjaro/climb Kilimanjaro, said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Irwin, executive officer of Naval Special Warfare Unit 2, who led the expedition in memory of his father, Paul.
"It's not difficult like Everest, which is a technical climb. But it was harder than we thought.
"I had altitude issues, and most of the guys had one issue or another," said Irwin.
Although SEALs are some of the fittest athletes in the world, many of the team members spent a few weeks hiking with heavy packs to prepare.
"The http://community.active.com/blogs/SEALSWCC.com_Recruiters/2009/08/28/news-seals-reach-peak-of-personal-fitness-aims-on-kilimanjaro/climbing company has porters to help you carry supplies and gear up; you normally only carry a small backpack with water and snacks in it," said Irwin.
But being SEALs, they had to make it a bit more challenging, so they carried a lot of their personal gear instead of using porters, something some climbers say only a few attempt.
The crew climbed a few thousand feet each day with overnight stays to acclimate and rest before the next day's push.
"It was gorgeous, said Irwin. "We went through five different climate zones, forests, desert and then at the top there are gigantic glaciers."
For Irwin, this trip was important to him for a very personal reason. His father, Paul, attempted to climb the 19,331 foot summit, but a racing heart stopped him short of the peak. Two years later, while on a walking safari in Tanzania, Paul suffered a fatal heart attack.
Chris completed the dream of his father, with support from fellow SEALs. The team used leave time to finish his father's mission.
"I wanted to take some of his ashes to the top and spread them," said Chris. "This whole thing became a personal thing. I wanted to do what my dad tried in 2005 and did not make it to the top."
Climbing the mountain costs several thousand dollars, money that most can't afford to spend. So Chris created the nonprofit group the Paul Irwin Memorial Climb Fund, in his personal time, to benefit the American Heart Association.
Through an online Web site and friends the nine climbers raised more than $15,000 to cover the cost of climb and donated 75 percent of the proceeds to the association, all during their non-duty time.
"There are a lot of charities that give to the SEALs but here is a chance for us as SEALs to give back," said Irwin.
Hundreds of people donated time and money to help Chris honor his father. At the summit, Chris spread some of his father's ashes.
"I knew it was going to be emotional, and it played out mostly like I imagined it would," said Irwin.
The Navy's culture of fitness keep Irwin and his shipmates -- who are often deployed around the globe -- ready for any contingency, whether personal or professional.
For more news from Naval Special Warfare Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/nswgtwo/.