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Marines face freezing temperatures to complete obstacle course

By Gunnery Sgt. Alexis Mulero | | December 22, 2010

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The first severe cold front in the Hampton Roads area this winter was not enough to deter more than 40 Marines from Marine Corps Training and Advisory Group from taking the obstacle course on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va. by storm, Dec. 15.

The MCTAG leadership, which coordinates a unit team-building event at least once-a-month, broke down the group of Marines into eight five-man teams comprised of Marines from different sections. These teams then competed against each other across 17 man-made obstacles that challenged them as a team both physically and mentally.

"Training events, such as the obstacle course, are great for the unit as well as the individual Marine or Sailor,” said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Hall, MCTAG sergeant major. “Obstacle courses, conditioning hikes, or field meets are examples of training events that build unit camaraderie and esprit de corps.  Too often units become so busy with the day-to-day hustle and bustle that they forget to have fun.”

According to Hall, “maybe the first ten minutes or so, the cold weather had many Marines and Sailors question how much fun they were going to have, however, once the unit was divided into teams and they started attacking the obstacles everyone forgot about the cold; motivation, teamwork, and competitiveness had taken over.”

If training as a team was one of the major objectives of the competition than the objective of the competition was met according to Hall, “Challenging training builds confidence and motivates Marines and Sailors. Most Marines joined the Corps expecting a challenge.  It is our responsibility as leaders to routinely challenge our Marines with tough physical training.  By successfully completing obstacles Marines become more confident in physical toughness and when an obstacle proves too challenging to make alone, they quickly discover that their fellow Marines are there to help.  It's all about the team.”

The superior MCTAG team on this day completed the course in six minutes and 34 seconds. The team included Capt. Scott Benninghoff, logistics officer, Master Sgt. Christopher Manuel, intelligence chief, Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Tracy, motor transport chief, Sgt. James C. Adams Jr., maintenance management clerk, and Lance Cpl. Cornail Gaymon, training instructor group noncommissioned officer.

“Team building events like this are an excellent way to break down the stovepipes that tend to develop within an organization,” said Benninghoff who is a native of Hammond, IN.  Competing with fellow Marines from throughout the unit has a direct impact on intersectional communication and team work back in the shop.”
Although no tangible awards were handed out to any of the placing teams, MCTAG Marines and Sailors left the obstacle course with much more than recognition. 

“It is not every day that you get to create a team from officers, staff noncommissioned officers and junior Marines from different sections,” said Gunnery Sgt. John Jones, supply chief at MCTAG. “Events like this are great for building trust and camaraderie within every Marine in the unit.”

“Another great benefit from unit training, particular when private through colonel are participating in the training, is unit pride,” Hall said with a smile.  “Young Marines and Sailors want their leaders to see them perform, as well as see their leaders perform.  It is these types of events that the Marines and Sailors will go back to their work areas or the BEQ (bachelor enlisted quarters) and laugh and joke about things they did or saw.  At the end of the day it is good to see Marines with a big smile on their cold and dirty face and know they are having fun doing what Marines do."


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