Special to The Gardner News
Camp Pendleton, Calif. – Hikes, often called, “humps,” are known throughout the ranks of the Marine Corps as long, gruesome and physically demanding endeavors and a necessary hardship all Marines prepare to conduct.
An Edgerton man, along with his battalion is taking a tried and proven approach to guarantee they meet the standards.
To prepare for a nine-mile regimental hike and ensure the battalion is combat ready, Marines and sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted weekly hikes aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., beginning Sept. 16.
The battalion has since conducted four hikes, starting with a three-mile foundation hike and building up to and completing a seven mile on Oct. 3. They are gradually increasing the difficulty of the hikes to prepare for an upcoming hike with CLR-17 slated for Oct. 18.
“Our battalion has been working up phases with a crawl, walk, run approach to hiking to get ourselves ready for the regimental hike,” said Lance Cpl. Jason M. Cloud, of Edgerton. “As the hikes progressed, we went up higher and steeper hills and longer distances. The first time was pretty easy, but I realized how much more difficult they got as they went on. In the end, we still were able to complete them.”
The Marines and sailors realize the importance of the hikes and see firsthand how it strengthens the unit physically and mentally.
“I love hikes,” said Cloud, a field radio operator. “I believe it’s important to do these hikes because you work with everyone and you can motivate each other. We may be separated by our detachments but even when people fall back, you can still push them forward. It builds unit cohesion and the extra training prepares us for the future.”
To mix things up, the battalion incorporates additional training throughout the hikes.
For one exercise, service members donned and cleared their gas masks during a mock chemical weapon attack. The Marines who failed to clear their masks in time became simulated casualties and were fire-carried back to a HMMWV ambulance. They continued to hike wearing gas masks until the air was deemed safe. After the last hike, explosive ordnance disposal Marines conducted a class on improvised explosive devices.
“The last two hikes we incorporated gas mask training,” said Gunnery Sgt. Genette D. Prather, supply chief. “If someone didn’t get [the gas mask] on quick enough, the Sergeant Major would walk around and [pick them as casualties]. One of the Marines would have to pick up that Marine and carry them to the [HMMWV]. If it was a real scenario and you didn’t get your gas mask on in time, that’s what we would do; we would take care of our own.”
Taking care of their own was an echoing theme during each hike. A large portion of hiking may fall on individual effort, but what makes a battalion successful is the motivation of a cohesive unit.
“It builds camaraderie. You’re out there with everyone from the commanding officer down to the junior enlisted,” said Prather, a native of Varnville, S.C. “Everyone wants each other to succeed and complete the hike. We don’t ever give up on a Marine or leave them behind.”