CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan -- PULL! PULL! PULL!” the crowd chanted as their respective teams battled for every inch during the tug-of-war contest. Fatigue hit and feet slipped as the flag shifted. The Marines, from every battalion, roared with cheers.
Tug of war was one of many events Marines, currently stationed on Okinawa as part of the unit deployment program, competed in at a field meet Nov. 14 at Camp Schwab during the first Shanghai Commanders’ Cup in more than 50 years.
“It was a great day of camaraderie,” said Col. David L. Odom, commanding officer of 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Today was unique because we had representation from across the Marine Corps, and because it’s so close to the 239th birthday. It was the perfect opportunity to celebrate.”
The field meet included Marines from all three active Marine divisions: 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, stationed at Camp Pendleton, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, stationed at Camp Lejuene, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and Headquarters Company, 4th Marine Regiment, stationed at Camp Schwab, all participated.
The meet tested the Marines in nine categories, ranging from fun events like softball and sumo wrestling to pull-up and push-up competitions. Every event was performed in a team setting, further reinforcing camaraderie and cohesion.
“This was an amazing way to end our time in Okinawa,” said Cpl. Austin White from Oregon City, Oregon, and a machine gunner with 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, currently assigned to 4th Marines. “Seeing all of these Marines from every major duty station really showed that no matter where we are, or who we are with, we will be a cohesive team, oriented on getting the job done.”
Marines from 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, are at the end of their deployment and preparing to head back to MCB Hawaii. Marines from 2nd Bn., 9th Marines, are in the middle of their deployment, while 1st Bn., 1st Marines, have just arrived from Camp Pendleton, California. Marine units that participate in the unit deployment program maintain a high operations tempo, maximizing the training specifically available in the region.
“Some of the stuff we did today had ties to our normal training but a lot of it was fun and enjoyable,” said Cpl. Zach Martin from Cleveland, Ohio, and a rifleman with 1st Bn., 1st Marines, currently assigned to 4th Marines. “Our schedule out here is hectic with a lot of moving parts and not much time in any one place. Today was a good way to boost the morale of the guys and prepare us for a mentally, physically and psychologically long, yet chronologically short deployment.”
Today was about setting some time aside for the Marines to have fun, according to Odom from Hartsville, South Carolina. These Marines are fully prepared to provide crisis response anywhere in the Pacific tonight, because of the hard training that prepared them, said Odom. This was a chance to reflect on all that training and to also look forward to what is coming in the near future while having fun.
After the scores were tallied, 1st Bn., 1st Marines, walked away with the cup. A new inscription will be added to the cup, and it will be showcased in their command building on Camp Hansen until the next competition.
“This is going to happen again, there is a lot of room on the cup,” said Odom. “I‘m already being asked by commanders when the next cup will be, and I expect to see some great competition next spring.”