ABOARD USS BATAAN -- Marines and sailors from Company G, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, took advantage of a lull in flight operations aboard USS Bataan to perform a conditioning march throughout the ship.
In little more than one hour and 17 minutes, the troops covered about five miles on a route that took them up a severely-graded ramp, around the flight deck, back down the ramp, and around the hanger bay.
The march wasn't just a stroll for fresh air; there is a very serious purpose to the training.
Capt. Joel F. Schmidt, G Co. commanding officer, said he holds the hikes to help his Marines and sailors stay physically ready for combat despite the somewhat cramped conditions aboard ship.
"We do it to condition their feet and bodies to carrying a combat load," he said. "It's not like in the rear, where they can wear their full combat load and move around everywhere all the time; this is vital."
Schmidt said the hikes are useful to test the troops' mental and physical endurance. They hike every two weeks and increase the distance every time, so the troops constantly improve.
Pfc. Sean A. Griffith, a rifleman in 1st Platoon, G Co., said he thinks the hikes work well to add variety to the training schedule, which can often be dominated by the physical training regimen familiar to almost all Marines.
"It helps build muscles, endurance, and unit camaraderie," he said. "We do a lot of training in our gear to enhance our combat readiness."
Following the hike the company gathered at the bow of the ship to engage in a friendly competition between the officers and junior enlisted members.
The two teams raced in a relay to see which could break down and reassemble an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M-16 A4 rifle, and M-9 pistol the fastest.
Eventually, the enlisted team proved to be the winners, earning pizza and a little pride for their efforts.
The Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU and Bataan Strike Group are currently conducting maritime security operations in the Central Arabian Gulf.
Coalition forces conduct maritime security operations under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.