MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- A hand reaches up from the darkness below and grasps the waiting forearm. The mud makes a sloshing sound as the Marine is dragged to his feet and stumbles forward, away from the barbed wire jungle. The two men turn and continue down the path to the next obstacle, trudging through puddles along the way.
Trust and teamwork have are of the foundation of the Marine Corps way of life. Marines have struggled for years to create a method to develop these traits. One commander may have discovered it.
“The Beast,” said Lt. Col. Mark A. Brennan, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion’s commanding officer, referring to the obstacle course where he used blood, sweat, and tears to bring his Marines closer together.
“This kind of stuff gets Marines closer to their leaders,” said Cpl. Jason D. Grainger, a combat engineer with Company A. “It’s fun and different because we don’t usually do stuff like this.”
The Beast is a circular gauntlet of obstacles nearly two miles long. In teams of two, Marines jumped over a wall, climbed a cargo net 30 feet high then ran to log hurdles. Next, the engineers low crawled through a maze of wire obstacles before they navigated the two-rope bridge and the rope swing. After a long run through the mud, they finished with a set of pull-ups. All of this was after the two-and-a-half mile hike to reach the course.
“The intent is to get some good physical training as well as build camaraderie, teamwork, and Esprit de Corps,” said the Walnut, Ill., native.
This was planned for sergeants and below to have a fun day and spend some time together. The Marines hiked in battalion formation to the confidence course, then helped each other make it through the trails and trials. Afterwards, the battalion’s officers treated the Marines to a barbecue and the rest of the day off.
Leadership played a large role in Brennan’s method of developing unit-cohesion. The battalion’s commanding officer and sergeant major led the Marines through the entire day, from the hike to the course, through the obstacles and to the relaxing barbecue.
“CEB sapper’s motivational Marine Corps birthday PT session is for the sergeants and below,” Brennan explained. “They are where the rubber meets the road, and this is how I wanted to show my appreciation for their hard work.”
The engineers, recently back from deployment, enjoyed their ‘motivation day’.
“The teamwork, the camaraderie: it’s all about fun,” Grainger said.
The Marines laughed and joked around the picnic tables while they ate their hamburgers. Whether it’s in the mud or in the sand, the Marines are confident the next time they reach out, there will be another hand waiting to pull them up.