Training for The Tactical Games with EOD Tech Katie Hernandez

A US Army company commander takes aim at her next competition.

By Brent Hannify | June 28, 2022

Photography by Carlos Fleury


atie Hernandez is the kind of person who accepts any challenge. When she was in high school, a physical education teacher once challenged her to ditch the cheerleader outfit and try out for the lacrosse team. So, she did.

During her sophomore year at college, an Army recruiter challenged her to do some pull-ups on a bar he’d set up next to his booth as part of his sale pitch. So, she did.

Then he challenged her to commission as an officer. So, she did.

“My mom started crying immediately when I told her,” she said. “But what can I say? It fit my personality so well.”

Since joining the military in 2010, Katie has lived in pursuit of milestones. Her latest achievement was running a mile in an EOD bomb suit, smashing the Guinness World Record last year. On an April afternoon, Katie completed the mile in 10 minutes and 23 seconds in a suit that weighs 85 pounds. It’s a weight Katie won’t soon forget. As the commander of the 717th Ordnance Disposal Company operating out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, she knows all too well how much the suit weighs.

In 2021, Katie crushed the world record by running a 10:23 mile in an 85-lb EOD bomb suit.

What challenge do you take on next after breaking a world record? Always on the hunt for competition, Katie took notice of The Tactical Games, the move-and-shoot athletic event welcoming people of all skill levels to the field to test their limits. Supported by a generous donation by the Family Business Fund, Katie is currently training for the August games in West Virginia.

The Tactical Games welcomes everyone from the world’s most skilled military operators to everyday civilian gun enthusiasts. It’s a venue for shooters and athletes to participate in grueling challenges that blend strength, endurance, and tactical drills into one unforgettable game. With a background as a CrossFit trainer—she cut her teeth training soldiers at Bagram Air Base during her deployment to Afghanistan—Katie feels more than up for the challenge. Plus, she’s not a bad shot either.


Katie fuels up with CardoMax, a liquid-based single serve supplement made of clean ingredients and designed to give athletes the energy they need to perform at their best. Co-founded by former Navy SEAL Sean Matson, Katie’s been enjoying CardoMax for months as she trains for the Tactical Games.

“We did a weighted vest run, followed by deadlifts. And in between sessions, I’ll be drinking HydroMax. It’s got electrolytes, magnesium, and potassium, and it helps me recover and replace everything I deplete during my workout.”

“And when it comes to preworkout, nothing gives me the kick I need like Energy Intensifier. No other products even come close.”

But as anyone who competes in the Games knows, the real challenge is being able to land shots accurately in a fatigued (a very fatiqued) state.

“It’s not about finishing first,” Katie said. “It’s about being smooth and controlled. Keeping your composure and letting your rifle become an extension of your body.” As often happens at the Tactical Games, it’s the people in the middle of the pack who end up carrying the day. The winners are often the competitors who manage to complete the physical challenges in a timely manner and shoot straight.

Katie is currently preparing for the games with her teammate Colton Mastriaco, director of training at the private security form ARDENT Protection LLC. He’s a man who knows his way around weapon systems. “I’ve learned tons about physical fitness from Katie. Dieting, technique, you name it.” Colton says. “I try to keep up with her, but she puts me through the ringer. She’s on another level.”

Katie training alongside her partner, Colton Mastriaco of Ardent Protection LLC.

While Colton continues to learn about perfecting his own physical fitness from Katie, he returns the favor by helping her perfect her weapon techniques and handling. As a trained soldier, Katie knows plenty about handling firearms. But at the Tactical Games, every moment counts, and every movement must become second nature. Colton teaches Katie about proper grip, trigger control, drawing and holstering, and switching from rifle to sidearm, then back again.

“Pistols are the hardest platform to shoot well,” he points out. “You can spin up a rifle pretty easily, but pistols require more effort to draw correctly.” He points out that many first-time shooters bring their pistol up in an arcing motion, as one might loft a bowling ball or cast a fishing line. Katie catches herself “bowling” from time to a time, and Colton is right there to correct her movement.

“I’m a good shot,” Katie says. “But Colton is helping me break some of my little habits, because I want to become the best shot.”

The underlying motivation behind the Tactical Games is to evoke high-stress encounters shooters may find themselves in. As often happens with real-world scenarios, your heart rate is elevated, your body is coursing with adrenaline. Keeping a cool head and shooting accurately despite those conditions is exactly why the Tactical Games are built they way they are.

Competitors are also penalized for things that wouldn’t typically occur to tactical professionals in real world situations, such as leaving magazines on the ground. In a real combat encounter, dropping an empty magazine on the ground as you load a new one doesn’t matter. But at the Games, competitors must efficiently stow their empty magazines after reloading and keep moving. Details like that matter as much as every second on the field.

Katie and Colton hit the range once a week, do CrossFit three times a week, and run twice a week. But once you become immersed in training for the Games, the tactical mindset stays with you long after you call it for the day. Even at home, Katie finds herself practicing dry firing and watching YouTube videos from other competitors. I’m completely obsessed.”

For Katie, the competition is more than just game. It’s preparing for the unexpected. It’s about doing what she’s always done: Accepting whatever challenge comes her way.

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