CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Testing their physical and mental stamina, members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Command Element, II Marine Expeditionary Force, participated in a six-mile hike aboard Camp Lejeune June 29.
“One of the main purposes of the hike was to enhance unit camaraderie among the Marines and sailors assigned to the amphibious assault force,” said Capt. Albert Silva, one of the main hike planners.
After the hike, the commanding officer of 26th MEU, Col. Matthew G. St. Clair, spoke to the Marines and sailors, stressing the importance of this type of training, as well as physical fitness tests and combat fitness tests, believing it to be essential to the readiness of the individual service member and the unit as a whole.
The Marines and sailors wore an array of equipment, including flak jackets with up to four small arms protective inserts, commonly known as SAPI plates, weighing anywhere from 3-8 pounds each depending on size. They also carried M-16 A4 service rifles and M-4 carbines – the same weapons they will carry in a forward-deployed environment.
The heat and humidity were major factors in the execution of the hike. To beat the heat, the unit arrived at the armory at 4 a.m. and stepped off shortly after in order to conclude their exercise by sunrise. Even though the sky was black for the majority of the hike, many began sweating within the first few minutes. They faced 73-degree heat at the start and worked their way through 81 percent humidity. It had reached 95 degrees by midday.
The unit schedules monthly physical training that brings everyone together to focus on readiness for their upcoming deployment.