View Full Version : Marines hone battle fitness on Fort Huachuca

09-28-09, 08:30 AM
Marines hone battle fitness on Fort Huachuca
By Bill Hess
Published: Monday, September 28, 2009 2:21 AM MST

FORT HUACHUCA — Combat fitness is key to any Marine’s life, but for some of the Corps’ recruiters, having the opportunity to keep those skills at a high level is difficult.

When most of their 12- to 14-hour days, six days a week, are dedicated to wearing their blues and finding recruits for the Corps, the opportunity to practice combat fitness isn’t readily available.

But for more than 70 Marines from Recruiting Station Phoenix — which handles all of Arizona — Fort Huachuca is the perfect place to hone those special skills.

Thursday, the Marines got back into their “digital camies” and went through the post’s difficult Leadership Reaction Course.

Marines keep physically fit, but combat fitness is even more demanding, and Corps headquarters wants recruiters, many of whom are assigned to the duty for three years, to have the opportunity to do the special training, Maj. Tom Hodge said.

This is the first time the Marine recruiters have come to the fort to use the facilities, and Hodge, who is the station commander, said he didn’t know all the possible things his men and women could do on the fort.

The ability to do land navigation, march along the crest of the mountains, rappel and do some urban warfare training available on the post means “we’ll be back,” the major said, noting the recruiting station could come to the fort three times a year if arrangements with the Army can be made.

Garrison Commander Col. Timothy Faulkner visited the training site for a short time, welcoming the Marines.

Later, he said, “It’s a pleasure to have our fighting Marine Corps brothers and sisters in arms engaging in leadership training here at Fort Huachuca. I’ve done three floats with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, arctic warfare training, amphibious landings in Africa and a Mediterranean float with the Marines. I look forward to welcoming the Marines back to Fort Huachuca in the near future.”

Noting that the Army has opened the fort for the Marines’ needs, Hodge said the special leadership course has water, unlike the Marine facilities, making it more difficult and for the Marines, more exciting, he said.

There was more than one Leatherneck who fell into the water as they tried to complete the different tasks.

Hodge said 85 percent to 90 percent of the station’s recruiters have been deployed at least once, with 45 percent having multiple deployments.

Three of the Marines have been awarded Purple Heart Medals for wounds received during deployments, with one of them being a recipient of the award twice, the major said.

That Marine is Sgt. Eli Shaw, who was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2006 and one in Afghanistan in 2008.

Marine recruiters like Shaw bring “great combat experience to their job,” Hodge said.

Shaw, from Marquette, Mich., has been a recruiter for four months and he is like many members of America’s armed forces are hesitant about talking about a mission in which they were wounded.

To him, his wounds were not as serious as those “who are amputees,” Shaw said.

Left unsaid by him are those with serious wounds or who were killed in action are the heroes.

Hodge said there are a dozen substations in Arizona and one of them that recruits in the northern Indian reservations has an area of 32,000 square miles.

There are even smaller functions under the substations that usually only has one recruiter, the major said.

They are called “Dances with Wolves” sections, a take-off on the movie about a cavalry soldier of the 1800s who was assigned to a deserted western outpost.

But the Marine recruiters who have that mission in Arizona, Shaw is one of them and Sgt. Alex Bledsoe is another, do have the support of the Recruiting Station Phoenix assets.

Bledsoe, who takes care of the Sierra Vista operation, which also includes responsibility for Bisbee, Douglas, Tombstone and other areas in southern Cochise County, has been doing recruiting duty for a little more than a year.

He and his wife, Brittney, live in Sierra Vista.

Saying he was anticipating volunteering for recruiting duty, Bledsoe said he was told he had already been flagged for the assignment.

“So, I was ‘volunentold,’ ” he said.

The hours are long and his position calls for recruiting 20 to 30 a year, Bledsoe said.

As for Thursday’s training at the Leadership Reaction Course, Hodge said the teams were broken down by substation and although there was no formal competition Marines being Marines “they’ll do it for bragging rights.”

Herald/Review senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at bill.hess@svherald.com.