Brains and brawn put to test in challenge
CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — Seven teams of sailors spent the last week battling it out for bragging rights as the best on Okinawa.
The 11th Annual III Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General’s Battle Skills Competition, formerly called the Corpsmen’s Cup, was nearly swept by Team A from the 3rd Marine Division, which captured its third consecutive title by winning six of seven events and racking up 690 points, said III MEF Command Master Chief Julian S. Talosig.
Team B finished a distant second with 580 points. The squad representing 3rd Force Service Support Group managed 510 points to claim third.
“[The challenge] is designed to test medical knowledge, military skills and teamwork,” Talosig said.
Each team was made up of eight sailors, all E-5 and below, with six members and two alternates. Most of the sailors who participated are eligible for deployment with the Fleet Marine Force, he added.
The winners were determined through competition in seven events: a 75-question exam on the Fleet Marine Force program, medical and military skills, land navigation, endurance course, obstacle course, pistol competition, Zodiac boat race and a 12-mile forced march with packs. The winning team from 3rd Marine Division took first in every event except the march, in which it took a close second.
“These sailors take pride in completing the competition,” Talosig said. Even though the competition is tough, he added, the sailors who compete always look forward to the event and spend their free time preparing.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Lois Valdez, captain of the 1st Marine Air Wing team, said his squad practiced six to eight hours a week for almost two months.
“We did the obstacle course a lot and boots-and-[utilities] runs,” Valdez said. The team also held a couple of seven- to eight-mile forced marches.
While the teams may have practiced for the event, nothing is as grueling as the real thing.
“Every event is challenging,” Valdez said. “But the intensity comes from going from one event to another. It’s a total team effort … you’re only as fast as your slowest man.”
But this was hardly a men-only affair.
U.S. Naval Hospital had two teams, one that was all female until one competitor injured an ankle during the second day and had to be replaced by a male alternate.
Most thought the week’s most grueling event was the endurance course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, where knee- deep mud and rope bridges challenged the sailors.
“The endurance course was the hardest by far,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Porter, 3rd Force Service Support Group team member. “We had some difficulties, but we did our best. It’s a learning experience since none of us have ever done it.”
Porter said 3rd FSSG adapted to each event and worked off each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Each member of the winning team earned a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal and a coin from the III MEF commanding general. All others received a Commanding General’s Certificate of Commendation.