CAMP EDERLE, Italy -- Though they were there to have a good time, the sweat that poured down Sgt. Michael Sistrunk's determined face told a truer story.
His team was there to win.
However, Sistrunk's four-man fire team quickly discovered they were not the only service members vying for the top prize in Battalion Landing Team 2/2's Adventure Training: four duty-free days.
According to Capt. Douglas MacIntyre, BLT 2/2's Headquarters and Service Company Commander, who was the on-scene commander, the event was designed as a chance for Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) to have some fun using military skills.
Those skills were put to the test immediately. As soon as they stepped off the bus that brought them from USS Saipan to Camp Ederle's physical training area, the service members divided into four-man fire teams and hit the pool for water polo.
After a 15-minute game that pitted team against team, the Marines and Sailors got back into uniform to begin the highlight of the Adventure Training: the fire team endurance challenge. The challenge consisted of six separate events, each containing various point values. The first event was two minutes of pull-ups, followed by a 1-mile run then a 50-yard fireman's carry in combat gear. A game of volleyball was next, followed by a 1.6-mile run with combat gear. The final event was a five-question Battle Skills Training (BST) test, where each member of the fire team had to get the correct answer in order to win any points.
Sistrunk, a Jacksonville, Fla. native, and his team took an early lead on the bar after his team pumped out 85 pull-ups. However, he was unsure about the team's overall chances.
"I would say we might win this, if wasn't for the (BST) part," said the Marine with the 26th MEU(SOC) Reconnaissance detachment. "That's going to kill us."
Though the competition was tough, Sistrunk's team managed to make it through to the BST portion with a score of 107, which provided only a narrow lead on the other Marines and Sailors. Just as Sistrunk predicted, the BST was not their shining moment; but it would do.
When the winners were announced Sistrunk's team had indeed taken the first prize, but with less than 10-point spread over second place.
"It was anybody's game," said MacIntyre to the group as he read out the winners. "If some of [the fire teams] would have known more BST, you would have taken it."
Regardless of the victory, Marines and Sailors said they took full advantage of the opportunity.
"This was a good chance to get off ship, do a little training and have some fun competing against other [service members]," said LCpl. Gregory Firebaugh, 26th MEU(SOC) operations clerk and Dallas, Texas native.
After the winners were announced, the teams set up camp.
MacIntyre said that BLT 2/2 was able to conduct the Adventure Training due to the support of Camp Ederle's 22nd Area Support Group (ASG) and Southern European Task Force, who allowed them to train on the base.
The relationship was so smooth, MacIntyre said he expects to see more use of nearby Army facilities for actual combat training when the 26th MEU(SOC) is again in port.
"We're all one team here," said Army LtCol. Alan Stull, 22nd ASG Deputy Commander. "Whenever we can do anything to support [the MEU], just give us a call."