Approximately 400 future Marines gathered May 7, 2005 at Fort Indian Town Gap, Pa., for Recruiting Station Harrisburg’s Annual Future Marine Challenge. The event is a series of physically and mentally challenging obstacles similar to those found in Recruit Training. The purpose is to familiarize the future Marines with boot camp and to allow them to learn about teamwork and camaraderie.
A Marine drill instructor greeted the soon-to-be Marine’s as they exited the busses. The drill instructor then gave them detailed instructions in forming a platoon size formation and keeping their mouths shut.
“I thought it was a good head start for the poolees, said Sgt. Paul Nixon, drill instructor, Company I, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. “It tested them physically and mentally and allowed them to display teamwork and camaraderie.”
After the initial shock of a drill instructor greeting, the young men and women were divided into three groups of 10 teams with 10 to 13 poolees on each team.
The day’s events were broken into three main categories; the Leadership Reaction Course (LRC), field skills, and an enhanced Initial Strength Test (IST).
“We broke all the poolees into three groups of approximately 125 each to keep everyone moving at all times,” said Gunnery Sgt. Derrick B. Jones, program specialist, RS Harrisburg. “We wanted everyone to feel the rigorous physical demand needed to complete recruit training.”
After a safety brief given by Maj. Kurt Mogensen, RS Harrisburg’s Commanding Officer, each group was then directed to one of the three main event areas for the day to begin.
The LRC consisted of 10 mentally and physically demanding problem solving cells. In each cell, the teams were presented a problem, and given 10 minutes to solve it. Problems ranged from transporting a casualty across a cable bridge to creating and crossing a bridge while carrying all equipment needed for the exercise.
“We wanted this event to stress two very important things they will need to successfully complete recruit training; physical fitness and teamwork,” said Jones. “Each team had to quickly decide a game plan and then try to work together to complete each problem in the given amount of time.”
The field skills area consisted of running through a timed obstacle course where teams had to run through several simulated barbed-wire obstacles, tunnels, and traverse through muddy terrain while simulating casualty evacuation along the way.
“Marines take care of their own,” said Sgt. David Watson, supply noncommissioned officer, RS Harrisburg, who designed the course. “We wanted to instill a sense of responsibility and loyalty to their fellow team members.”
After the obstacle course, a Marine Corps martial arts demonstration took place coupled with knee and elbow-bag drills.
“The martial arts demonstration and the IST were some of the best aspects for them, said Nixon. “Today’s recruits arriving at Parris Island have the hardest time with the physical aspects of recruit training; these events can help ease that burden.”
For the IST each team’s score reflected the effort of everyone.
Each team had two minutes to conduct as many pull-ups and crunches as they could. The run-time for each team was taken when the last poolee crossed the finish line.
“The idea behind the IST portion is to help motivate them to get in shape and build a sense of camaraderie with the other members of the pool,” said Staff Sgt. William Favinger III, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Recruiting Substation Capital City.
At the end of the competition, the future Marines were given a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE). They were shown how to open and prepare their meals and with skeptical faces but hungry stomachs, they wasted no time in testing out the Marine Corps’ cornucopia of culinary delights.
The day concluded with an awards ceremony for the winning teams and the future Marines left the training area.
“Only one team could win, however, all the poolees left the event with first hand experience about what recruit training is like, said Jones. “The recruiters paint a verbal picture for them, but it’s always better to get a real feel for it.”