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Marines with Company E., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, climb out of a pool during a combat endurance course here, Oct. 9. The endurance course is a two-day event consisting of various exercises at stations around Camp Hansen, including: performing mask drills in the gas chamber, digging a fighting hole, calling a “nine-line” casualty evacuation, swimming laps in a pool and assembling different weapon systems. The purpose of the course is to keep tactical skills fresh in a garrison environment. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and the only continuously forward deployed MEU.

Photo by Cpl. Codey Underwood

Marines battle fatigue, obstacles during combat endurance test

10 Oct 2013 | Cpl. Codey Underwood

Working against the clock, Marines rush from station to station, reacting instantaneously to the tasks before them.  The hot Okinawa sun and an irritating gas added to the already difficult challenges for the fatigued infantrymen, but failure was not an option. 

Marines and Sailors with Company E., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, concluded a two-day combat endurance test here, Oct. 10.

The endurance event included more than a dozen exercises within a span of two days, testing their ability to perform infantry field skills while fighting physical and mental fatigue. This is a challenge the Marines face continuously during combat.

“Marines are constantly worn out from patrols and moving to where the fighting is going on,” said Staff Sgt. Alexis Gonzalez, a platoon sergeant with Co. E., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Cleveland, Ohio. “During combat, 90 percent of the time we are exhausted but we still have to perform our various tasks.”

The first day started out by running the company through the gas chamber. While “CS” gas filled the Marines’ lungs, eyes and noses, the company split into fire teams and headed to the different stations with stinging eyes full of tears. The teams were timed at the stations during the day, so the troops had to move quickly in between the challenges. The stations included digging a fighting hole, swimming laps in a pool in their utilities and the re-assembly of an M240B machinegun, M9 pistol, squad automatic weapon and an M16-A4 service rifle.

“Doing these skills while fatigued really tests your abilities to be able to slow down, take a deep breath and execute the task quickly, smartly and precisely,” said Lance Cpl. Royce M. Montgomery, a rifleman with Co. E., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU. “During some of the stations, my mind was all over the place from running and I had to force myself to calm down and think about the task at hand.”

The second day started with the company conducting a team combat fitness test, which measures the ability of the Marines to move while under simulated fire.  Carrying fellow Marines, sprinting with ammo cans and throwing a grenade are just some of the challenges encountered during the fitness test.

Upon completion of the CFT, the Marines once again split into fire teams and moved to the different stations around Camp Hansen.  On this day, the Marines had to throw a simulated grenade while in the prone, demonstrate accurate combat medical drills and prepare range cards.

At the end of the two day test, the Marines were evaluated on how they performed at each station. The CET was the first company-sized training conducted since coming off ship in September following the 31st MEU’s Fall Patrol.

“It was really good for us to refresh ourselves because we have been on ship so long without being able to conduct these skills,” said Montgomery, a native of Dryden, Va. “After not doing a certain skill for so long, you start to question your abilities.”

The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and is the only continuously forward deployed MEU.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit