CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Seventy-four Marines and four Navy hospital corpsmen hiked six miles at the Edson Range Complex here June 25 as part of early conditioning for a later deployment.
Members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit's command element, which returned from a sea deployment in April, marched across bending terrain and up and down dirt slopes to a halfway turnabout.
The course proved to be more challenging for two or three hikers, but every Marine successfully marched to the end, encouraged by one another throughout a two-column formation that held relatively tight - even after breathing grew heavier each mile.
"I was hurting but kept going, one foot in front of the other," said Pfc. Jason Almanza, 20, from Phoenix.
Keeping the Marines at one arm's intervals, a handful of staff noncommissioned officers between the columns barked orders, punctuating the rhythmic crunching of dirt beneath boots and a disciplined hush among hikers.
"It was a good hike. You could feel the camaraderie throughout the group," said Almanza, a unit embarkation clerk new to the unit.
"The Marines did an excellent job. The unit hasn't hiked since before (its last) deployment," said Col. Michael Hudson, who took command in May. "Now is a good opportunity for the Marines to start conditioning again."
Hike officer in charge Capt. Brennan Simi said the unit's next hike will be July 23: an 8-miler with increased terrain challenges.