On Okinawa, a battle to be the best
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — Seven teams of sailors spent the last week putting their bodies through tests of endurance and strength for one reason: to be named champion of the yearly Battle Skills Competition.
The 12th annual contest, formerly called the Corpsmen’s Cup, was a close battle between 3rd Medical Battalion’s team, representing camps Hansen and Schwab, and 3rd Force Service Support Group’s team from Camp Kinser. The two teams combined to take first place in all seven events, but 3rd Medical Battalion ran away with five first-place finishes.
The last event — a 12-mile forced march with packs — sealed the victory for the team when their staggered start was last and they passed the six other teams to finish first.
The other events in the competition, which took competitors to camps Schwab and Hansen and to the Jungle Warfare Training Center, included a 75-question exam on the Fleet Marine Force program, medical and military skills, land navigation, an endurance course, a Zodiac boat race, an obstacle course and a pistol competition.
The III Marine Expeditionary Force Command Master Chief, Julian S. Talosig, said the competition tests medical knowledge, military skills and teamwork. Each team was made up of eight sailors — six active and two alternates — all E-5 and below.
The winners credited their victory to teamwork. Team captain Petty Officer 2nd Class Randy Rozzell said the group took the challenge seriously and practiced hard. They began preparing two-and-a-half months prior to the competition — most of the workouts being on personal time before and after work, and during lunch. He said they trained five days a week.
Only one member of Rozzell’s team had ever competed on Okinawa. Rozzell himself had competed in the same type of event at Camp Lejeune, N.C., but he said Okinawa’s course is much tougher. He said there’s nothing that compares to the steep and muddy terrain of the Jungle Warfare Training Center’s endurance course.
Rozzell said winning makes all the hard work and preparation worth it.
“What’s great is that all these guys volunteer,” he said. “Our workouts were tough, but they kept coming back day after day. It takes a special type of person to come out here every day and get the crap beat out of you.”
The team from 3rd Medical Battalion will get to keep the rotating cup-shaped trophy for the next year, as well as bragging rights.
One team lost those rights for the first time in four years. The team from III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group was on top the last three years, but this year it fell to third place. Team captain Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Bleck said this year’s team had all new faces — last year’s champions have all left the island.
“There was a lot of pressure on us,” Bleck said. “We have a bunch of new people who are new to Okinawa, so it’s tough.”
The event ended with an awards ceremony Friday at the Camp Hansen Theater. Each member of the winning team received a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal along with the rotating trophy.
All other competitors received a Commanding General’s Certificate of Commendation.