MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Every step was a fight as squads of Marines traversed the desert terrain of the Combat Center’s ranges. After traveling approximately nine miles in full gear with added equipment, their boots began to feel like lead. The Marines were timed and tested in building clearing, operation of an M203 grenade launcher and maneuvering while suppressing enemy stops along the way to their destination. As their breath shortened, their strides became longer and their determination to beat their fellow squads in the competition only grew.
Staff non-commissioned officers and officers with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, organized a squad competition for Marines and sailors within the company, Feb. 12, 2014, aboard the Combat Center. The competition began with each squad running an obstacle course twice. From there, Marines moved to a landing zone to be transported by a CH-46 Chinook helicopter to Range 701.
“We wanted to include the basics of warfighting in the competition,” said 1st Lt. Tyler Mojer, executive officer, Co. E, 2/7. “That’s why the Combat Center’s ranges are so useful because Marines can use the 100 series of ranges for training like the Squad Battle Course that encompasses several scenarios and allows us to evaluate.”
The Marine Corps will always find competition as a way to sharpen skills and improve unit cohesion, even in times of peace.
“This is what the Marine Corps is going back to,” said 1st Sgt. Turay Idris, first sergeant, Co. E, 2/7. “Whenever the Marine Corps isn’t fighting, we are competing against each other to sharpen our skills and see who is the best platoon, company, or unit. Competitions like this are creative ways to keep ourselves ready.”
The company introduced live-fire to go along with the physical challenge of the competition. Another part of the course was tests given at the end of each range exercise, which included questions about weapons systems, first aid, hand and arm signals and memory challenges that had Marines recalling the features on different pieces of equipment.
“I was a little nervous about the competition,” said Pfc. Fernando Porras, infantryman, Co. E, 2/7/ “It’s a long way but I’m ready for any mental and physical challenge my squad and I will encounter.”
“Because of the success of our fire-team competition, we wanted to bring it to a bigger scale by introducing live-fire ranges and a longer distance to travel,” said Capt. Will T. Kerrigan, company commander, Co. E, 2/7. “The biggest thing Marines can take from this course is that they can push themselves significantly further than they thought they could mentally and physically.”
Camaraderie, trust, and team building forges an effective unit and when Marines come together to accomplish a common goal, it makes for a competitive spirit that is unrivaled, according to Kerrigan.
“I could not be prouder of every Marine and sailor in this company,” Kerrigan said. “It is amazing to see the amount of drive that everyone in this company possesses to succeed. To go that distance and still finish with a smile demonstrated the toughness and grit of the company, Easy Company, we hold here.”