Fort Drum community members can compete throughout May in a Jacobs Ladder Challenge, one of many activities planned in support of the Army’s 2021 Strong B.A.N.D.S. (Strong Balance, Activity, Nutrition, Determination and Strength) campaign. (Fort Drum FMWR graphics)

Fort Drum community members challenged to ‘Race to the Top’ in support of Strong B.A.N.D.S.


Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 3, 2021) – Fort Drum community members have a chance to “Race to the Top” in May with a physical challenge that will test their strength, endurance and perseverance.

And all it will take is a few thousand feet – 29,035, to be precise – on the Jacobs Ladder.

“That’s the equivalent distance of climbing Mount Everest,” said Jonathan Burnard, Sports and Fitness Program coordinator for Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. “So the idea behind the Jacobs Ladder Challenge is to see how many community members will make that climb to glory and also see how many will challenge themselves to go even farther. The person who records the longest distance will earn a prize.”

Participants have the entire month of May to complete the “Race to the Top” challenge and log in their results on a spreadsheet at Atkins Functional Fitness Facility. The event is open to all DoD cardholders 18 or older.

“The Jacobs Ladder is a treadmill-style ladder climber that’s self-paced, so you determine how fast you want to go,” Burnard said.  “Athletes use it for high-intensity interval training, but it is also designed for low-impact cardio equipment for recovery workouts or rehabilitation.”

The 40-degree vertical climbing angle of the machine neutralizes the spine and reduces stress on the lower body so the greater impact is on muscles, and not the joints.

It’s fairly simple to operate, too.

“First, you put the belt on around your waist, because that the cord attached to it provides the tension on the machine,” Burnard said. “Then all you have to do is step on the first rung of the ladder, hold onto the side rails and start climbing. Once you become comfortable with the movement, you can move your hands off the rails and onto the rungs.”

Climbing nearly 30,000 feet in 31 days should be an obtainable goal, considering the Guinness World Record for ascending the actual summit is eight hours and 10 minutes.

“We recommend that people go at their own pace,” Burnard said. “You can add it to your regular workout, maybe add a few hundred feet each time. Challenge yourself, challenge your friends and, really, just have fun doing something you wouldn’t normally do.”

There will be other chances to do that throughout May in support of the 2021 Strong B.A.N.D.S (Strong Balance, Activity, Nutrition, Determination and Strength) campaign. The Fort Drum FMWR team has events lined up for community members of all ages.

“This is the 10th anniversary of the Army’s Strong B.A.N.D.S. program, so we wanted to give our community members different activities they can do throughout the month that promote fitness and wellness,” Burnard said.

Activities include:

*May the 4th Be With You 5K Run, 7 a.m. May 4 outside Magrath Sports Complex.

* Zumba Classes for Kids, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. May 5 at the School Age Center.

* PT Balance Body Workout, 6:30 a.m. May 5 at Monti Physical Fitness Center.

*Indoor Triathlon, 6:30 a.m. May 13 at Magrath Sports Complex. Participants have the option of riding their own bike on an outdoor course or using a stationary bike inside the gym during that portion of the triathlon.

*Don’t Touch the Lava, 10 a.m. May 14 at Atkins Functional Fitness Facility. Competitors navigate their way through the course – from jump boxes to the Alpha Warrior Rig – without touching the ground. The finisher with the fastest time wins a prize.

*BOSS Invades Atkins functional fitness challenge, 10 a.m. May 19 at Atkins Functional Fitness Facility. Open to all DoD cardholders 18 or older. Prizes awards to the top three finishers with best times in male and female categories.

*Ultimate Freebie Tournament, 10 a.m. May 22 at Monti Physical Fitness Center.

Other events, such as a dodgeball tournament, squad games and an assortment of fitness challenges, are scheduled throughout the month. For details, visit and follow

“We are very excited to offer so many different fitness programs this month to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Strong B.A.N.D.S.,” Burnard said.