TOW Plt. first to tackle new test;of combat skills;TOW Plt. first to tackle new test of combat skills;
By Cpl. Michael Hjelmstad
| Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | May 11, 2000
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
On November 28, 1950, Pvt. Hector Cafferatta waged a lone battle against enemy aggressors in Korea. His fortitude, valor and dauntless perseverance saved the lives of several Marines and earned the Medal of Honor.
Named after the Korean War hero who would not concede to mental or physical exhaustion, the Pvt. Hector Cafferata Division Challenge was held for the first time April 27 and 28. Marines from TOW Platoon, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms were the first to accept the challenge. Other Division units will take the challenge periodically throughout the year.
The 24-hour graded event tests the stamina, teamwork and tactical ability of small units and their leaders. The challenge is not a competition, but a training event developed to enhance small-unit esprit de corps.
The idea began when MajGen. Gregory S. Newbold, commanding general, 1st Marine Division, asked his driver, Sgt. Eugene Escamilla, if there was anything that could be done to revitalize esprit de corps.
"I suggested we make an event that would challenge Marines and make them work together as a team," Escamilla said. "The general asked if I could come up with something like this, and being a Marine, I had to say yes."
After five months of planning, Escamilla said he was impressed with the first running by TOW Platoon.
"It was challenging both mentally and physically. The combat environment was great," Escamilla said.
The exercise is broken into three phases: phase I, conducted at the platoon level; phase II, at the squad level; and phase III, at the fire-team level.
Phase I, the platoon phase, consists of a forced march and three events. The Challenge begins with a timed forced march from Red Beach to the Las Flores obstacle course. The second event is running the obstacle course followed by a movement to an assembly area. The final event is a night patrol followed by another forced march to a new assembly area.
"You can see how important teamwork is," said Sgt. Richard Pillsbury, 1st Squad leader. "Several of these obstacles I wouldn't be able to get over by myself, but together we all made it."
Phase II, the squad phase, consists of squad-size patrols evaluated on tactical movement, selected battle skills tests and immediate action drills.
"Even when they were tired, both mentally and physically, the small-unit leaders jumped in and took charge," said 1stLt. Michael Skaggs, evaluator. "This is truly a snapshot of the units' ability to carry on in war."
Phase III, the fire-team phase, consists of a leader-reaction course where teams are again tested on various battle skills, obstacle traversing and pugil sticks.
"By this time, these Marines have covered a great distance," said Maj. Jason Q. Bohm, assistant training officer, 1st Marine Division. "The leadership reaction course is a true test of a small unit-leader's abilities."
"This is a significant landmark in 1st Marine Division history," said Col. John M. Studenka, chief of staff, 1st Marine Division. "The scores are really not important. A bonding takes place in this environment that can't happen in garrison.
"You Marines have learned something important about each other in the past 24 hours. The balloon could go up tonight and you'd be at war with these guys."
Studenka took time to congratulate each Marine who took part. Each Marine was also awarded a certificate of participation/completion.
Tow Platoon results
Platoon Speed March
Stage 1 (Red Beach to Edson Range) - 1 hour, 7 minutes
Stage 2 (Edson Range to Las Flores) - 42 minutes
Stage 3 - 3 hours, 3 minutes
Penalty minutes - 0
Penalty time - 44 seconds
Cumulative time - 1hour, 7 minutes, 42 seconds
Platoon night patrol
Penalty time - 10 minutes
Cumulative time - 10 minutes
Squad night patrol
Penalty time - 38 minutes
Cumulative time - 38 minutes
Leaders reaction course
Penalty time - 8 minutes
Cumulative time - 8 minutes
Penalty time - 86 minutes
Cumulative time - 16 hours, 46 minutes, 42 seconds
TOTAL CUMULATIVE TIME - 23 hours, 46 minutes, 42 seconds