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Photo by Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill

2/7 hikes Combat Center, welcomes new Marines

27 Mar 2006 | Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill

The sun peered slowly over the hills of the Combat Center March 27 as the Marines and Sailors of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment geared up for their first conditioning hike since their return from Iraq.The all-hands formation of more than 800 Marines and Sailors of 2/7’s five companies staged their packs and filled the area near the obstacle course before they set out on their five-mile trek to the rocky hills over Mainside.“This is just a short hump with only our packs and rifles, so it should be fairly easy and I expect everyone to do well,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffery L. Stevens of Headquarters Company.The hike, or “hump,” as commonly referred to by Marines, was the first for the battalion since the War Dogs returned home Jan. 31. The unrelenting brisk pace allowed them to complete the training exercise in just over two hours. Traversing the hills, rocks and sand while shouldering 50-pound packs, many 2/7 leathernecks understood the hump, albeit short, was merely a stepping stone for upcoming, more difficult training.“This was short and sweet but I’m not really looking forward to the longer ones,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew Fest, a 21-year-old armorer and San Antonio, Texas, native. “My feet were killing me all morning, I won’t lie about that.”The War Dogs trotted through the hills in two columns, creating a formation that stretched more than one mile and was clearly visible from Mainside despite the overcast conditions.“Humps like this keep us in shape and help prepare us for Iraq again,” said Stevens, a Lincoln, Neb., native. “When I was a new guy, I remember my first hump made me feel like part of the unit.”The battalion recently welcomed nearly 200 new Marines to its family fresh from the School of Infantry. Some veteran War Dogs saw the hump as a good way to help harden and train the new additions.“This is kind of an indoctrination for the Marines who just joined us, and it helps them to become part of the unit,” said Fest. “For the new guys, it helps them build that unit cohesion, but to some of us older guys, it’s still just another hump. Only a handful of Marines and Sailors fell back or out of the hump, which was probably because of the shorter distance and not having to carry heavy crew-served weapons, said Fest.With the obstacle course in their sights as they came down from the hills, 2/7 ended their endeavor with a battalion formation around their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Joseph L'Etoile, who addressed his Marines on what he thought of the day and future expectations.“This is our first hump being back, and it’s a chance for everyone to get a feel for their gear, whether your socks are on right, whatever,” said L’Etoile. “This is just a tune-up. We have planned out all of our hikes until we go to [the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center at] Bridgeport this summer and we’ll culminate here with a 25-mile hike. But we’re going to do this smart — 5, 7, 12 miles — right on down the line and we’ll slowly introduce the crew-served weapons. Nobody is trying to get anybody hurt out here, but we need to be hard again.”L’Etoile then dismissed his Marines to carry out the plan of the day.“This was a very good building block to go on and if nothing else, good for conditioning,” said Fest. “With so many new Marines with us, this first hump was a good test to be able to see where you and everyone else are at.”