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Members of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment’s ‘super squad’ display the Mitchell Cup outside of their headquarters building. The ‘First Team’ super squad was awarded the trophy after competing in and winning this year’s Marine Corps Super Squad competition aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, July 30, 2015. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo

‘First Team’ takes gold

14 Aug 2015 | Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Marines of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, competed in and won the Marine Corps Super Squad competition aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, July 30, 2015.

The Marine Corps Super Squad competition, held annually, is open to Marines and sailors from across 1st Marine Division. Within the division, each regiment chooses a squad to represent them. The competition is held as a means of testing each squad’s endurance, occupational intelligence and cohesion. This is the first time in 10 years that ‘First Team’ has participated in the competition.

“When I first heard about ‘super squad,’ my thoughts were on what went into it,” said Cpl. Zachery Bennett, team leader, 1/7. “We were briefly told we were going to be put up for super squad. When I heard that, I went back, did my research and found out a little bit more. It sounded like a pretty big honor to even compete in it.”

Marines and sailors who participated in the competition were required to complete several events over the span of two days. The events for the first day included; a gear inspection, a combat fitness test, a 100-question written test, which covered basic infantry skills, and an operation order to conduct daylight patrolling.

“All of us knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses so, whenever there was friction, we always knew how to handle it,” Bennett said. “We kept each other motivated to keep pushing. One of the major challenges was acclimating to Camp Pendleton’s temperature and terrain.”

The patrol was conducted in the Juliet Training Area aboard Camp Pendleton. The Marines and sailors were required to navigate through harsh terrain to locate six checkpoints and call for fire from supporting assets, such as mortars. Competitions like super squad not only test the Marines’ and sailors’ mental and physical strength, but their ability to work together and rise above challenges.

“We didn’t really have time to train because we have a really busy ‘work-up’ leading to our deployment,” said 2nd Lt. Samuel Johnson, platoon commander, 1/7. “A lot of times, the Marines wonder how what we do applies to what we will actually end up doing and this accomplishment validates [their training and hard work].”

After the patrol, they moved into a defensive posture for the next portion of the competition and fended off a simulated attack. The next day, they started a timed nine-mile movement to Range 408. Once there, they conducted a live-fire attack and another three-mile movement followed by completing an unknown distance range as a marksmanship test for the final part of the competition.

“After the competition we formed up and the division general came out and spoke to us,” Bennett said. “He let us know that we all did really well, regardless of who wins, and to take everything as a learning lesson.”

After Major Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, 1st Marine Division Commanding General, addressed all of the squads, ‘First Team’ received the Mitchell Cup, named after Navy Cross recipient from the Battle of Fallujah, Cpl. Robert Mitchell. Members of ‘First Team’ also received the super squad badge in recognition of their accomplishments.

“I was really proud of them but I think it really spoke to how well we do things here at the Combat Center,” Johnson said. “I think members of the squad were brought closer together, as is always the case when you go through real hardship and this was one of the hardest things some of these guys have done, especially the younger ones. I think whenever you go through challenges like that you learn to rely on each other and I think that’s permeated throughout the platoon as well.”

Super squad is a competition that combines several training elements utilized while forward deployed. This was the first time some members of the ‘First Team’ squad competed in an event of this caliber. For them, the competition embodies the spirit of what it means to be a Marine.

“It’s a very big honor and there will be an even stronger brotherhood for having gone through that together,” Bennett said. “It definitely makes us want to be better just because we now have to represent what that badge stands for. As far as making ourselves better goes, you don’t obtain an accomplishment and then stop building. You have to maintain it and keep striving for greatness.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms