December 20, 2008
Marines take on obstacle course

Part of training at Pensacola NAS

Travis Griggs

In the dense fog just after daylight Wednesday morning, as Navy students marched to class nearby, a group of about 90 Marines at Pensacola Naval Air Station were honing their combat edge.

Wearing boots and combat uniforms, they ran four at a time through a combat conditioning course, leaping log hurdles, swinging over metal pull-up bars and clawing up the side of a 6-foot wall that was slippery from the damp air.

"This is coming through in spades," said Capt. Steve Gentile, who is in charge of training on the course. "The Marines love to come out here and do Marine things."

The jump from the intense physical demands of basic training to the mental demands of a classroom environment is a big change for Marines going through training at Pensacola Naval Air Station. To help Marines keep their physical edge during the months they spend in technical training, commanders at Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21 in October opened a combat-conditioning course at Pensacola NAS.

"The Marine Corps is going to a higher level of physical fitness, combat conditioning and health," Gentile said. "The reason why we built this course is so we can focus on the Marine Corps martial arts program, the combat conditioning program and our combat fitness test."

After climbing down from the final obstacle of the course, a two-story hand-over-hand rope climb, Lance Cpl. Jonathon Bailey said the course was a welcome addition to the physical fitness routine.

"I haven't done it since boot camp. The obstacle course is always something fun and different to get out and do, and it's still a challenging workout," Bailey said.

Staff Sgt. Lance Gray,one of the instructors on the course, said the workout is more than just a physical one — it's also a mental challenge.

"It gives them a big challenge to overcome," Gray said. "Even when they're tired they've still got to push through it, and that builds character."

The course also reinforces teamwork lessons the Marines learned in basic training, Gray said.

After one Marine repeatedly threw himself at a wall, only to fall back down into rubber mulch padding that covers the ground, other Marines came over shouting encouragement, and eventually helped heave him over the wall.

"We're only as strong as our weakest link," Gray said. "So we're not going to make fun of someone because they are weak. We're going to help them through the obstacle so they become stronger, and as a team, we become stronger."