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  • 11
  • Feb
  • 2016
Combat endurance challenge: Knowledge, navigation, medical evacuation

By Pvt. Robert Bliss, I Marine Expeditionary Force

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California -- The ability to do every aspect of one’s job is a necessity in the Marine Corps. The lives of others depend on it. They must be both technically and tactically proficient, and physically and mentally ready for anything: willing to risk life and limb to complete missions.

To ensure their readiness, Marines with Battery Q, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, conducted their first quarantine combat skills and endurance challenge at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 5, 2016. The challenge consisted of hiking nearly seven miles, testing weapons systems and combat lifesaving skills, land navigation, and simulated casualty evacuation. 

“The challenges presented to our Marines for this exercise are not things that we do on a day-to-day basis,” said 1st Lt. Chad Wheeley, the operations officer for Bty. Q, 5/11. “These are situations that our Marines could face in actual combat. That’s what makes this type of training so important.”

The challenge began with Marines being split into six groups. Each group had to reach five objective points using land navigation skills. 

“I didn’t know what to expect when we started out,” said Sgt. Jonathan GonzalezCruz, a launcher crewman with Bty. Q, 5/11. “One minute we were doing functions tests on weapons systems, the next we were transporting a simulated casualty over a mile of rugged terrain. It was crazy, but it was worth it.”

The stations were randomly set up and each objective provided a challenge for the Marines. One station was a weapon functions test, where Marines disassembled and reassembled weapons. If any member of the team made a mistake, they were all penalized with rigorous physical exercises, such as buddy carries, mountain climbers and burpees, all while in full combat gear.

Another station tested the Marines’ combat lifesaving skills, such as applying tourniquets and how to treat a sucking chest wound. Teams were then required to carry a simulated casualty nearly a mile in rugged terrain.

Completing the challenge wasn’t the only accomplishment the Marines of Bty. Q took home that day. The winning team won a plaque with their names engraved on it and unlimited bragging rights. Although the Marines had fun with the competition, each of them knew what was at stake: The Marine to their left and right.

“Today was a great experience,” said Cpl. Alexander Ocken, a launcher chief with Bty. Q, 5/11. “But at the end of the day, those were some very real-life scenarios that each of us could be facing someday. I think that’s the most important thing to takeaway from this.”

After the course was complete, Marines crossed the finish line weary, but accomplished. They had seized the day, but many more challenges lie ahead. Training never ends for the Marines of 5/11.

Training like this endurance challenge gives Marines the tools to gain new techniques in an ever-shifting battlefield. Regardless of the location or condition, today’s Marines are ready to face the challenge head on.
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