By Army Staff Sgt. Brad Staggs
Camp Atterbury Public Affairs
BUTLERVILLE, Ind., June 23, 2011 - Have you ever wanted to break a world record? Army Staff Sgt. John Halsey didn't know that he wanted to -- until he discovered that he had something to prove to his student soldiers.
"I challenged them to go do something productive, go break a world record," Halsey said. "They laughed about it and told me to go break a world record."
Halsey said he replied, "I will," to the students.
Halsey set his sights on the record for most push-ups in one minute with a 40-pound pack -- a record that was then held by Britain's Paddy Doyle, who'd performed 51 push-ups in one minute with a 40-pound pack on his back Oct. 11, 2010.
Halsey said he felt that he needed to not only break the record, but to beat it decisively to show his soldiers that anything is possible.
The barrel-chested Halsey trained every day for two months.
The rules for breaking a world record are specific and include having witnesses present who aren't affiliated with the attempted record breaker or the organization. Shana Richmond of North Vernon; Connie Rayburn, North Vernon city councilor; and North Vernon's First Lady Joanne Campbell all volunteered to witness the event and act as unbiased judges.
With more than 100 Patriot Academy students present in the old school house gymnasium, a 40-pound kettle bell weight was placed in a three-pound backpack, more than tipping the mandatory weight of 40 pounds as it was officially weighed and documented.
When Halsey was told to go, he was more than ready. By the time 30 seconds had elapsed, the students were out of their seats and pounding the gymnasium floor, cheering louder and louder for Halsey until it was nearly impossible to hear the time keeper over the public address system.
As soon as the members of the crowd, who were counting the number of Halsey's push-ups, shouted "52," everybody started cheering.
But Halsey didn't stop. He wasn't satisfied with simply breaking the record.
Stop was called at 60 seconds and the official final count was 60 push-ups. Halsey had performed 60 push-ups in one minute while wearing a 43-pound backpack -- an average of one push-up every second.
Rayburn was in charge of counting the number of push-ups using a hand counter.
"I was so excited, and I was looking at how much time was left. I knew where I was at on the count and kept thinking, 'This is too cool, but remember to focus on what you're doing,'" she said.
"I knew the previous record was 51," said Richmond, the other official counter. "So the second I hit 51, I was cheering as hard as the soldiers behind me. I can't wait to tell my kids at school. They are going to think it's the greatest thing that's ever happened."
Campbell said she was excited to be present at the breaking of a world record.
"I have never done anything like this before. What an experience," she said. "I'm so proud of him and his motivation. It's awesome."
After his record-breaking performance, Halsey didn't appear any worse for wear.
"I'm just glad it's over with," he said. "My goal behind this was to show the students it can be done. I have a feeling a lot of them will be gunning for this record just because it was me who broke it. I want to watch them do it, because any time they are trying that hard, they are just becoming better soldiers."
It may take as long as six weeks for the Guinness World Record committee to verify Halsey's record, at which point he will be sent a certificate to commemorate the achievement.
But, for Halsey, the true accomplishment is the example he set for his soldiers.