Accepting the challenge, 1/5 Marines summon mettle for arduous 24-hour trek
By Cpl. Melinda M. Weathers
| Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | June 22, 2000
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Their day started at Red Beach, kicking off a nearly 24-mile trek over the sand and hills of Camp Pendleton. After maneuvering through obstacle and confidence courses, and patrolling through the night, their minds and bodies had been put to the test. Sleep-deprived, battered and hungry, they emerged 24 hours later in the murky waters of Lake O'Neill.Approximately 200 Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, participated June 7 and 8 in the Private Hector Cafferata Challenge, a three-phase nonstop training evolution initiated by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division, MajGen. Gregory S. Newbold.Cafferata was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his efforts in Korea Nov. 28, 1950. He single handedly defendeded a gap in the defensive line, created by his fire team who had all become casualties. Cafferata later rushed a grenade, seized it, and threw it away from his comrades before it detonated. Cafferata?s bravery and will to push on will live forever and motivate the 5th Marines.The 1/5 Leathernecks were the first infantry battalion here to complete the challenge, which emphasizes team building through physical and mental rigors, according to Maj. Timothy J. Devlin, operations officer. "This was some very aggressive training and the Marines were forced to work with each other. Early on, they realized they weren't going to make it individually," Devlin said. The challenge's intent was to enhance esprit de Corps, teamwork, small-unit leadership and tactical skills, he added.The challenge commenced with a four-mile speed march in full field gear. Each Marine was given four meals-ready-to-eat; it would be more than 24 hours before they had a warm meal. The Marines tested their tactical skills and teamwork throughout the evolution on challenges like the confidence course, obstacle course and leadership reactionary course. Night security patrols kept the Marines moving in the darkness and ensured they stayed awake. The warriors, from platoon commanders to privates, finished up the following day with a water crossing in Lake O'Neill on makeshift rafts made with barrels and wood. For the majority of the Marines, this was the first field event with the battalion, according to SgtMaj. Jimmie L. Gibson, battalion sergeant major. "Some of the Marines are new arrivals to the unit, fresh out of the School of Infantry, and they said this is some of the hardest training they've done," he said. Gibson added that the training was a true test of noncommissioned officer leadership."This is what I came in the Corps for," PFC Timothy G. Cvitak, a native of Springfield, Mo., said during the third hour of the challenge. "It's some pretty intense training and requires (an immense amount) of teamwork.? Cvitak, who finished up SOI training a month prior to the challenge, said he's looking forward to more tough training with his new unit in the future."The bottom line is that this training evolution was all about building esprit de Corps and pride in the unit," said LtCol. Craig Baker, commanding officer of 1/5. "This was very physically demanding and it took these Marines a lot of guts to get through it. As soon as we can, we're going to get more Marines through the course."