News: Killing Time: All in a Ball
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a series on Marines from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay. They are preparing for war by training in the California desert. Miserable heat, grueling training and the absence of home’s amenities here make their work exhausting and their downtime precious. They labor with little and appreciate the simple. This is the grunt grind, the life of the Marine infantryman.
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Amid a dusty city of tents, two Marines unwind after a long day of training. They leisurely toss a baseball back and forth, laughing and trading jabs as the evening sun dips under a colorful sky.
Though their pre-deployment training is exhausting, Lance Cpls. Cody Varnell and Nick Lacarra make time every night for throwing around the baseball. The simple activity is their refresher from the grind of grunt life.
“No matter how tired we are, we always have time for some relaxation and fun,” the 20-year-old Lacarra, from Long Beach, Calif., said. “Baseball is our way to unwind.”
By trade, they are machine gunners with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. They were tested by the cycle of patrolling and standing post on their last deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.
On their upcoming fall deployment to Helmand province, they’ll be familiar with the scenery but face new challenges. Instead of solely mentoring new Marines, they’ll work as military working dog handlers. Their purpose will be finding improvised explosive devices before the IEDs can reign destruction.
Both said working with the dogs is rewarding, but the job is still new and taxing. When the training is tough and they’re hot and tired, the dogs are too.
These challenges will translate from California to Afghanistan once they complete the 35-day Enhanced Mojave Viper training exercise here. But regardless of what a day brings, they’ve got baseball — their brief escape from the day’s stresses.
“When Lacarra and I throw around the ball, our day comes full-circle,” Varnell, 20, from Mesquite, Texas, said. “We talk about the good, the bad and what we can improve on … and then we do it all again.”
They labor with little and appreciate the simple. This is the grunt grind, the life of the Marine infantryman.