MTV’s Extreme Challenge – cast members of television programme undergo physical challenge at Navy’s Submarine School

MTV’s Extreme Challenge – cast members of television programme undergo physical challenge at Navy’s Submarine School – Brief Article

Bob Houlihan


When MTV wanted to show their viewers the definition of liquid chaos, who did they call? Not the Marines, not the Coast Guard, but rather the experts of the deep. They called the submariners.


Because they are the ones who know what it’s like to be in a confined compartment when ice-cold water is rushing in at 1,200 gallons per minute, blasting the skin off your face while you do everything in your power to stop the flow and save your boat from going straight to the bottom.

That’s why the 12 cast members of MTV’s “Road Rules vs. The Real World Extreme Challenge 2001” traveled to the Submarine School’s Damage Control (DC) Wet Trainer in Groton, Conn., — to see if they could handle the chaos.

It’s simple. Two teams are made up of previous cast members from MTV’s two hit shows, “The Real World” and “Road Rules.” Whichever team wins the challenge gets to spin a prize wheel for a chance at cash and prizes.

These shows are known for their unique challenges around the country — wake boarding behind a blimp, midget mud wrestling, a ropes course — none of which compares to a flooding casualty aboard a submarine, and the folks in Groton were bound to show why.

Flooding in a submarine can present even more drastic problems than on a surface ship. While the basic response is the same — keep the vessel afloat and stable — the specifics to accomplish this are different.

These civilians, who know little to nothing about the sea-service, are about to learn what the Navy is made of. The trainer they will attempt to conquer is no piece of cake, even for those Sailors who are well-trained in damage control. It consists of 12 possible emergencies, presenting a variety of DC casualties which range from damaged saltwater piping to lubrication oil leaks.

The water pressure at the leaks in the trainer varies from a flow of 25 gallons-a-minute in the beginning to a whopping 1,200 gallons-a-minute at its peak.

But it was more than the wet trainer facility that brought MTV to Groton — they wanted to get a taste of some down home Navy training. From the moment they arrived at the submarine school, the competitors were treated as submarine students fresh out of boot camp and marched to the barracks for a good night’s sleep after being outfitted with Navy coveralls embroidered with their names.

Reveille came awfully quick for these kicked-back civilians, 4 a.m. to be exact, as they were awakened by their “escorts,” company commanders, Chief Machinist’s Mate (SS) Vance McKinsey and Mess Management Specialist 1st Class (SS/DV) Larry Madison, who gave the teams 10 minutes to dress and fall into formation in front of the barracks with the rest of the Sub School students.

After starting the day out with some “fine Navy chow,” it was back in formation for yet another march to prepare for the challenge.

It was the duty of MMCS(SS) David Bahl, DC wet trainer LCPO, to condense the 14-hour training into a three-hour crash course to educate the cast on the damage control techniques they would need to survive and walk away unscathed.

After the training was complete, it was time to begin the real fun. Team Road Rules was up first and had no idea what exactly they were going to be up against. Nothing could quite prepare them for what they were about to experience.

“At first, the money was what was on my mind, but after the water level started to rise, it was all about survival. It felt like we were really sinking,” said Syrus of MTV’s Real World Boston cast.

“There was one point where all hell was breaking loose. Kameelah and I were working on a patch, and it seemed like we were all alone in this cloud of light. Because of all the noise and confusion, there was no way to talk to each other, but our eyes met and we communicated without having to talk.”

The Real World Team managed to control all of the leaks and brought the rising water level to a halt.

“It was so cool, like being in a movie,” said Julie of Real World New Orleans. “You forget you’re in a simulator and feel like you’re fighting for your life. It was so ‘Hunt for Red October.'”

The second round didn’t quite go as well as the first. There seemed to be much less teamwork and communication with the Road Rules team, and it showed in the final result. They had a very hard time patching the pipes and were not able to control the water level.

“I was very impressed with how the MTV kids did after receiving only three hours of training,” said MMI(SS/DV) John Tucker, the DC wet trainer LPO.

As the competitors dried off and changed into new coveralls, the school staff of the trainer met in secret to tabulate the teams scores. As the numbers rolled out, there was very little doubt about final result. Team Real World had won.

“At first I had some reservations about the whole scenario,” said Bahl. “I was concerned about what the kids’ character would be like, and that this could turn into a platform for them to voice issues they had with the military.

In the end, I was very impressed, these are a bunch of good, hometown kids.”

Both teams learned there are real rules to surviving flooding chaos in the deep which no music video or movie can give you.

As the day wound down, the 23-year-Navy veteran Bahl added, “If this is an accurate slice of America, we’re in pretty good shape.”

Houlihan is a photojournalist for All Hands.

COPYRIGHT 2001 U.S. Navy

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