MWSS-172 endures jungle, strengthens teamwork

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Lance Cpl. Victor Balbuena traverses the pit-and-pond obstacle of the endurance course July 15 at the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Camp Gonsalves. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Donald T. Peterson)
Lance Cpl. Victor Balbuena traverses the pit-and-pond obstacle of the endurance course July 15 at the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Camp Gonsalves. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Donald T. Peterson)

MWSS-172 endures jungle, strengthens teamwork

by: Lance Cpl. Donald T. Peterson | .
Okinawa Marine Staff | .
published: July 20, 2013

Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan -- The long, muddy trail, which crosses rivers, vertical slopes and thick brush, always presents a formidable obstacle for Marines, as they race against time to navigate the Jungle Warfare Training Center’s endurance course at Camp Gonsalves.

Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 worked together to meet the challenges of the endurance course July 15 as the final event of the eight-day basic jungle skills course.

“We are conducting this training to increase our capabilities, as well as to improve our small-unit leadership,” said Lance Cpl. Johnny S. Canizlopez, a bulk fuel specialist with MWSS-172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Teamwork was an essential element in ensuring we were able to accomplish our goal of completing the course.”

The 3.8-mile endurance course includes 31 different obstacles such as tactical rope suspension crossings, hasty rappels, flooded trenches, submerged tunnels, cargo net and wall climbs, casualty evacuation drills and numerous hills and streams.

“As an instructor here at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, I go through the endurance course with groups of Marines all the time,” said Cpl. Brian M. Ashworth, a machine gunner and instructor at JWTC. “I still feel like this is one of the (most difficult) things that I have been through in my Marine Corps career.”

The basic jungle skills course that led up to the final endurance course event taught the Marines and sailors important techniques and information that could possibly save their lives in jungle terrain, according to Ashworth.

The course is also structured to teach and strengthen small-unit leadership skills.

“The endurance course is almost impossible to complete without teamwork and small-unit leadership,” said Ashworth. “I’ve seen teams that work well together complete the course in a little over three hours, and I’ve seen teams that didn’t work well together take six hours to complete the course. How long it takes each group depends on their teamwork and will to continue pushing forward.”

The Marines and sailors of MWSS-172 applied the basic jungle skills course training during the endurance course, demonstrating good teamwork and a strong will to continue throughout the event, according to Ashworth.

“As a team I feel we worked well together,” said Capt. Mark A. Wlaschin, the Headquarters and Support Company commander with MWSS-172. “Everyone stepped-up and took initiative to help get the mission accomplished and moved through the course as quickly as possible.”

After a long day of strenuous training, the MWSS-172 Marines departed Camp Gonsalves as a stronger and more confident team.

“Training like this really brings people together,” said Ashworth. “They endured through the course and the (overall) training, and that will help them to be a better squadron and work together at a higher level.”