Infantrymen test mettle during endurance course

Infantrymen test mettle during endurance course

by Lance Cpl. Stephen D. Himes
Okinawa Marine Staff

JUNGLE WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, CAMP GONSALVES, OKINAWA, Japan -- As day breaks, the already difficult activities ahead such as rappelling, stretcher carries and low-crawling are amplified by harsh terrain, exhaustion and something endearingly referred to as “peanut butter” mud. Steam rolls off the mud-covered camouflage utilities of Marines soaked in chilly water as they pause for a moment to drink chicken broth in an attempt to revive their senses. These Marines have just started the Jungle Warfare Training Center’s endurance course.

A group of infantry Marines attended the basic jungle skills course Jan. 6-12 at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, and completed the culminating endurance course event to gain a better understanding of operating in the jungle environment inherent to the Asia-Pacific region.

The Marines are with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.

“The course is four-miles long and requires the squad-sized groups to negotiate more than 30 obstacles,” said Sgt. Jacob S. Navarro, an instructor with JWTC. “The Marines will have to perform multiple hasty rappels, wade and crawl through muddy water that is just barely above freezing, and finally, carry a 160-pound dummy on a makeshift stretcher one mile through the harsh jungle terrain.”

Part of the stretcher carry requires Marines to pass through a pit of “peanut butter” mud, according to Navarro. The mud earned this nickname due to its unique sludge-like consistency, making the event all the more difficult.

“Operating in the jungle is vastly different from urban terrain,” said Capt. William O. Over, the commanding officer of Co. K. “Simply moving 200 meters in the jungle can take two or three hours. This (BJSC) training is unique to Okinawa, and we want to make the most of our time here.”

The unit received deployment training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., which focuses combat skills for desert terrain, according to Gunnery Sgt. Jeremey C. Stover, the company gunnery sergeant. The jungle terrain and hasty rappelling training are not readily available at stateside facilities.

“We are consumed by the elements out here,” said Cpl. Chance W. Breeding, a forward observer for the company. “This is a lot harder than any training I have received thus far. I’ve learned to respect the jungle.”

As the company progressed through the endurance course, the obstacles became more unit-oriented and less about the individual effort of a particular Marine.

“It takes teamwork to move a platoon up and down a cliff,” said Over. “The endurance course provides a great opportunity to build small-unit leaders at the fire team and squad levels.”

The small-unit leaders gained leadership skills throughout the course to navigate the unit through obstacles in an expeditious manner during the culminating endurance event. 

The Marines agreed the course is both physically and mentally exhausting, according to Stover. The fatigue creates a realistic training environment that is invaluable.

“These Marines are getting a taste of something they have never had before,” said Stover. “This is a completely different life experience, and accomplishing this course (BJSC), and even more so this single event, is an incredible achievement.”

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