United States Navy veteran and Western Connecticut State University alumnus A.M. “Hupp” Huppmann set out to sea last week as a participant in the 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge to raise awareness of the challenges faced by veterans, including high rates of suicide and PTSD. Huppmann is a member of Foar From Home, one of 35 rowing teams crossing 3,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Antigua to support a variety of causes.
“Heavy on us has been the veteran suicide issue that’s plaguing the nation,” said Huppmann of the team’s goal to heighten awareness and prevention of veteran post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.
Foar From Home was formed in 2019. It is comprised of Huppmann and fellow veterans Billy Cimino (U.S. Army), Cameron Hansen (U.S. Air Force) and Paul Lore (U.S. Marine Corps). The teammates all reside on Amelia Island, Florida, which influenced their mantra: “It takes an island to cross an ocean.”
Funds raised by the group will be donated to Florida-based charity and veteran service organization K9s for Warriors, which provides highly trained service dogs to military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma; and Cross The Line Foundation, to start a vocational or college endowment to assist veterans and their families during job, career or life transitions. The initial fundraising goal was $500,000, which has since been raised to $730,000 after surpassing $700,000.
Huppmann’s journey to participate in the challenge began in August 1984, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and subsequently served on the aircraft carrier USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71), as well as several submarines. Huppmann completed a range of Cold War-era deployments, strategic ballistic missile submarine deterrent patrols and extended combat cruises in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom during his service. He retired from active duty with the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer in August 2004 after a 20-year career.
After returning to civilian life, Huppmann attended the University of New Mexico for two years, and then moved to Connecticut and enrolled at WCSU as a nontraditional student in
2016. He was able to fast-track the last two years of his studies into two semesters, graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management in spring 2017.
“I used my GI Bill benefits at WestConn,” Huppmann said. “I went to school every day and had a full-time schedule, and then at night I would take classes online. I am extremely proud to be a graduate of WCSU.”
After obtaining his B.B.A. in Management from WCSU, Huppmann settled in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida, where he is a small business owner and musician. He soon began preparing for his participation in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
Huppmann and his teammates were required to undergo strenuous training in preparation for the challenge. The team traveled to Jacksonville University for row training, in addition to their training in trauma-level medicine, open-ocean navigation, safety/survival at sea and radio communications. They have spent the months leading up to the race demonstrating proficiency in their boat, spending about 350 hours rowing in the open Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.
There were other special considerations for the strenuous undertaking. “We’ve gone through several inspections via Zoom call to make sure our boat is laid out properly,” Huppmann said. “They count calories, in quantities of per calorie, per man, per day bundles of food that you have to carry in your boat. The food alone amounts to about 1,000 lbs., all dehydrated.” Huppmann stressed the importance of calorie counting, stating that “sleep deprivation and malnutrition set in as you start getting into these longer runs. You’re eating 5,000 calories a day, but burning 9,000. Each guy will probably lose about 30 pounds as we come across on the journey.”
According to the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge website, each team will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes during the race.
“Honestly, it’s a great metaphor for an anti-suicide campaign, because you want people to keep pushing every day, no matter how hard it gets,” Huppmann said.
It also relates to his time in the Management program at WCSU.
“Professor of Management Dr. Pauline Assenza in the Ancell School of Business was just an absolutely influential professional when I was there wrapping up,” Huppmann said. “She still crosses my mind often because she was so inspirational about going forward on your journey in life and being willing and able to realize your own dream.”
The challenge began last week with the launch on Dec. 13 from the Spanish port of San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands, and is projected to take Huppmann and his team about a month and a half to arrive in Nelson's Dockyard in Antigua-Barbuda. Their progress can be tracked in real-time throughout the challenge through the Yellow Brick Racing app.