News: Black Knights Fight for the Commander's Cup
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — Under the intense mid-day sun of Iraq, Marines cheered on their comrades and competitors as they wiped their sweaty brows while participating in a field meet conducted by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, June 14.
The meet was held to help the Marines escape the day-to-day stressors in their work environment and to boost camaraderie.
Marines from the squadron were broken down into their respective sections and competed in seven events, which included the 880 meter run, a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle pull, tug-of-war, and individual events including the gator pull, maneuver under fire, pull-ups, and a pig eating competition.
The individual events were intensely challenging, according to one Black Knight while recounting his exhaustive experience on the gator pull.
"It's like chasing after a little brother," said Cpl. Dwayne Collins, an aviation electrician from Deptford, N.J. "You have him, but as soon as you start pulling, all that extra slack on the rope — it's kind of hard to gain your composure back."
Breaking up the monotony of a normal work day and building a strong sense of camaraderie within the squadron was accomplished by the field meet.
"These Marines have been aboard Al Asad Air Base for about three months now," said Sgt. Maj. Anthony Sammartino, the sergeant major of VMFA-314. Sammartino, a Miami, Fla., native, is currently on his ninth deployment. Most of his Marines have had no days off and maintained a twelve-hour-on and twelve-hour-off schedule since arriving.
"One day out of every deployment we try to do something where we can get our Marines a day off and have fun, but still try to incorporate things where they're taking part in military and physical activities so that there is some camaraderie and some challenge and competition," he said.
The Black Knights showed Marine Corps spirit and close competition, but as the events came to a close, the Marines from the airframes division won the Commander's Cup, the award given by the squadron commander to the winning team.
"This was a perfect event. For Marines to come out here, have fun, and make something happen," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Schannette, a native of Jeanerette, La., and the operations chief for VMFA-314. "Morale is up. Camaraderie is up. We're just having a good time."
The Marines conquered not only each other but also beat the sweltering heat and physical challenges they faced, making them all winners.
"The only complaining coming from out here was who was going to beat who" said Sammartino.