Endurance course challenges service members, builds cohesion
JUNGLE WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, Okinawa, Japan -- With their uniforms drenched from sweat, pouring rain and murky water, Marines push, pull and slosh their way through the dense vegetation, trenches and seemingly primeval jungle waters.
Marines are driven to their mental and physical limits at the sole Jungle Warfare Training Center in the Department of Defense.
The endurance course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center at Camp Gonsalves is designed to give Marines a chance to conquer the jungle's hardships and build unit cohesion.
"The purpose is to test the Marines physically and test their abilities at skills they have learned during our basic jungle skills course, such as knot tying, hasty rappelling and casualty evacuation," said Capt. Thomas Carpenter, the operations officer with JWTC, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. "During most courses, (the endurance course) is the last event before the unit graduates and returns to their home station."
The endurance course is one part of the basic jungle skills course. JWTC also teaches jungle warfare specifics like patrolling, ambushes and raids.
However, the endurance course is notable for its unique environment, an environment where intangible skills are developed and sharpened.
One of the main things the endurance course does is build teamwork and trust between Marines, according to Cpl. Joseph Leiding, an instructor at JWTC. It is a team effort, and by the end, Marines are a more cohesive unit.
The obstacles and equipment, combined with the exhaustion, heat and humidity, pushes Marines to their physical and mental limits. Marines who can't finish the course because of physical limitations can come back for another iteration. Marines who need technical remediation start the obstacle over again.
"Some Marines fail because they have an injury or become a heat (casualty)," said Carpenter. "Others (fail) some obstacles because they (do not) tie the proper knots (used in the safety devices and harnesses) or they are conducting an unsafe act."
JWTC successfully runs hundreds of service members through the endurance course throughout the year.
"We usually have units going through the course three times per month as part of an eight-day training package," said Carpenter. "So far, there have been 1,200 students for fiscal year 2012."
Many of the students are with units that call Okinawa home, but recently, there have been off-island units completing the course.
"It has been mostly units on Okinawa from III Marine Expeditionary Force, but now that the unit deployment program is back, we will see an increase in UDP units at JWTC," said Carpenter. "(Besides that) we do get other units from off island. Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Company Pacific from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, scheduled two packages this year."
Company E, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment under the UDP, is one of those off-island units that experienced JWTC and the endurance course during 12 days of jungle operations.
"The training here is something that is completely different than any other training that I have done," said Lance Cpl. Ricardo HernandezGomez, a rifleman with the company. "It is fun and demanding. It builds upon the teamwork that we have."
To get through obstacles, fatigue and humid conditions, the company needed to work together, allowing each Marine to learn to trust the Marines to their left and right.
"The company (did) well working as a team," said Leiding. "This training will help them in future conflicts, no matter where they are."