Marines sacrifice at Recon Challenge for those who gave it all
By Cpl. Sarah Wolff-Diaz
| Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | May 21, 2013
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Blue chemical lights illuminated the Pacific under a early morning sky as 41 dark figures approached the black waters off San Onofre beach at 4 a.m. and patiently waited in the brisk air for the countdown to honor their fallen comrades to begin May 17.
The announcer counted “3… 2… 1!” The Marines plunged into the frigid ocean and stroked their way through a 2,000 meter swim, which was the first evolution of the 5th Annual Recon Challenge here.
Twenty two-man teams and Sgt. Maj. Blake Smith ran the event alone. The event consisted of swimming, climbing, and navigating obstacle courses.
“You have to factor in the rocks, waves and your buddy’s abilities,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Rawson, a recon team leader with 1st Force Reconnaissance Company here. “You also have to keep account of all of your gear.”
Each competitor carried a ruck sack weighing no less than 50 pounds when filled with the supplies necessary to complete the race.
“It was designed to simulate a full mission profile,” said Master Sgt. Mariota Pa’u Jr., the operations chief and challenge staff noncommissioned officer in charge.
“These guys aren’t here to compete for a trophy or a Super Bowl ring,” said Pa’u. “They’re here to compete because they are representing the recon Marines that have been killed overseas.”
According to Pa’u, like every other recon challenge, this year’s was dedicated to the families of fallen reconnaissance Marines and many aspects of the challenges symbolize that.
“You start with the Marine’s dog tags and name stenciled on your ruck-sack,” said Pa’u. “You start with them, you finish with them.”
Competitors performed a callisthenic test, climbed a 35 ft. tower and did a 25 meter swim without breaching the surface.
“Every few miles we had to stop and take our pack off and that affected a lot of people,” said Gunnery Sgt. Collin Barry, course chief for Basic Reconnaissance Course with Reconnaissance Training Company, Advance Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West.
Barry said that the challenge was different this year from previous years because the exercise stations were added to the courses trails.
“Whether it’s 20 miles or 30 miles you can get in the right mind set, but not this year,” said Barry. “Every two to three miles you’re taking your ruck-sack off to do some type of event that smokes you.”
Although safety is paramount, injuries do occur. Event staff was sure to accommodate those who were impacted negatively during the trial.
“My partner dislocated both of his shoulders yesterday,” said Sgt. Maj. Blake Smith, director of the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Academy here. “I was linked with a team in the beggining and told I could run on my own if I wanted to. That way I didn’t affect any other team’s performance.”
Although Smith’s partner was unable to finish the race, he said he had to continue any way he could because the race was about those he’d lost long ago.
"He was a good friend of mine from a long time ago,” said Smith. “It was pretty emotional.”
Smith, coincidentally, had the honor of bearing the name of someone he knew this year.
“(This event) is near and dear to a lot of our hearts because we go out and race with the names of our fallen brothers,” said Smith, 43, the oldest participant this year.
Smith’s partner wasn’t the only one to suffer minor injury.
“I got a cramp on one of the obstacles and fell,” said Cpl. Joshua Rios, reconnaissance Marine with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Okinawa, Japan. “The corpsman wrapped my knee up and recommended I stop, but I kept pushing.”
According to Rios, the risk was worth the reward.
“It’s going get tough and it’s going to suck,” said Rios. “That doesn’t matter. You don’t give up because it’s much more worth it to see it through to the end than it is to quit.”
Running this event gives these Marines time to catch up with old friends.
“It’s a great opportunity for us recon Marines to come together, reunite and shake the hands of brothers we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Master Sgt. David Jarvis, operations chief with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion’s Alpha Company. “The most important thing is remembering our fallen brothers.”
Jarvis came in first place with his teammate Gunnery Sgt. Tyler Fedelchak at 8 hours and 36 minutes. They beat second place finishers by seven minutes.
“This really brings a tear to your eye because we care so much about the guys we’ve lost,” said Jarvis, who came in first placefor the second year in a row. “Recon marines were tied to the hip with each other so those guys are literally like family to us.”
199 days ago
Thank you all for your service and all that you do, you may not hear it often or even at all but you are appreciated.
Michael W. Tessenar
200 days ago
I was in from Aug. 27th 1972 to Aug. 27th 1976 Once a Marine ALWAYS A MARINE. OOORAAA. Take care of the ones that are here and never forget the ones that kept our country safe so that we could Honor them
R P Moon
201 days ago
Well done young Brothers!!!
1st Force '69-70
201 days ago
VERY PROUD TO SAY MY young Marine Lance Corporal competed in the Recon Challenge!!
I could not be prouder for his choice to become a Marine and even prouder that he chose the Recon path!!
201 days ago
USMC 1964-70 2087669 (Old Corps)
What happened to the reg about no tattoos...except the Bulldog or USMC you could hide under your skivvy shirt sleeve?
201 days ago
Sgt. Bumpus is my grandson. So proud of him and ALL marines. He's following in the footsteps of his grandfather, the late Bryant Eddleston, and his dad.
201 days ago
You guys are awesome ! Thank you for putting your life on the line for me and all of us Americans ! Again thank you! :)
202 days ago
that's my boys!!!!!!!!!!!!!