MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – As the sun rose over Camp Las Flores’ mountain ridgeline, Marines wearing combat gear anxiously lined the starting line up on the road. The Marines were ready to start a physical training exercise that would give them an opportunity to build camaraderie and prove which company arguably has the most physically fit Marines.
Thirty-six Marines serving with Alpha, Charlie and Headquarters and Service Companies, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion were selected to represent their companies in a biathlon during a battalion-wide competition here, Feb. 26.
“The purpose of this biathlon was to bring the Marines closer together and build camaraderie and emphasize esprit de corps throughout the battalion,” said Staff Sgt. Ross Casas, a platoon sergeant serving with Charlie Co. “The second goal was to have fun during a brotherly challenge and see which company could come out on top.”
During the first portion of the biathlon, Marines donned flak jackets and Kevlar helmets and carried rifles as they ran through three miles of hilly terrain to an urban combat training town near Camp Las Flores.
Lance Cpl. Brandon Fawkes, a maintenance management specialist serving with H&S Co, was among the Marines competing in the biathlon.
Fawkes, a 23-year-old native of Woodstock, Ill., said he enjoys competing in Spartan races and was looking forward to challenging himself during the biathlon.
Spartan races can range between one to 26 miles and contain natural and man-made obstacles.
Even with all his experiences, Fawkes said he was nervous about running the event with combat gear.
“It was definitely a challenge running there with all my gear on, I didn’t think it would ever end,” Fawkes said.
Fawkes’ fellow Marines looked to him for guidance on what they could expect to do in the biathlon. He said he enjoyed seeing Marines working together and motivating each other throughout the biathlon.
One of the Marines that motivated his entire squad was Cpl. John Carreno, a rifleman serving with Alpha Co.
“In Alpha Co., one of our biggest goals is to stick together, and I think this was a great opportunity to motivate one another and not let anyone fall behind,” said Carreno, a 23-year-old native of Murrieta, Calif.
The run was the first of the three events during the biathlon. During the second portion, the Marines were tested on their ability to focus under stressful conditions.
The competitors arrived at the combat training town and began doing physical exercises like jumping jacks to increase their heart rate. They then shoot targets 25 meters away with their service rifles while their heart rates were still at elevated levels.
“I had never experienced anything quite like that before,” said Fawkes. “It made shooting difficult, but I think we all did well.”
Fawkes said it was an experience he would like to try again.
After completing the second portion of the biathlon the Marines had to run three miles back through the hilly terrain to the finish line.
“It was great to motivate the Marines and finish as a group,” said Carreno. “We defiantly got some good physical training and built up camaraderie with one another.”
Alpha Co. had the highest score during the target shoot and the best combined runtime making them victors of the biathlon.
“I would like to do this again because it gave us the opportunity to improve unit cohesion and to compete against the other companies,” Carreno said.
As the Marines sweated together throughout the course of the biathlon, testing their mental endurance and draining their energy, they built camaraderie with one another and demonstrated their Spartan spirit proving they can overcome hardships together as a unit.