CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Nearly 100 command element Marines and sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit here hiked 11 miles Jan. 22, days before the MEU is to receive its three major subordinate elements.
Eleven for Eleven, a distance commemorative to the MEU, is the unit's longest hike so far and last hike as a Command Element. It was preceded by two nine-milers and a six-miler in previous months. There are plans for more hikes after the MEU grows to full strength.
The hikes, other physical training, convoy-operations, command post exercises, embark exercises, and weapons training, have readied the MEU’s Command Element to receive the other Marine air-ground task force elements that make up the bulk of the 11th MEU's 2,200 Marines and sailors.
The major subordinate elements will officially join the unit Jan. 26.: Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 11.
The latest hike helped those new to the unit, or those whose fitness may have backslid over the holidays, get back in the swing of things, said Col. Gregg P. Olson, 11th MEU commanding officer.
Carrying full load-bearing packs, the hikers stepped off in the morning at the Las Pulgas Gate in the Tango training area here and marched parallel to the Pacific Ocean on paved terrain.
Hiking on asphalt posed a challenge, but the Marines marched on.
"The asphalt doesn't have as much give as regular dirt trails," said Sgt. Patrick Skeeters, a MEU mechanic who has hiked with the unit before. "But I love these things. This is the Marine Corps. I can work on a truck all day, and things like this don't happen every day, so I take as much advantage as possible."
Lance Cpl. Jordan Howard, a motor-transport Marine who kept security in the formation's rear, said a small percentage of Marines, three altogether, were medically treated for either cramps or blisters.
With Navy ships on the horizon and rain clouds looming overhead, the hikers marched in two columns and averaged a 3.5 mph pace, stopping a few times to rest. Some changed their socks; a few lit up cigarettes.
At the finish, the Marines reviewed their morning's work with the commanding officer and the sergeant major. The MEU commander reminded the Marines to have any blisters dressed and challenged them to consider quitting tobacco through cessation classes the unit is planning. He said more stringent standards will make tobacco use harder on ships when the unit deploys.
After the Command Element formation, the Marines and sailors bused back to their unit headquarters at Camp Del Mar to cool their heels and eat a lunch prepared by hike organizers.