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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit's command element march along a dirt road during a hike here Aug 24. The purpose of the hike was to bring the unit together and build camaraderie. It also was used to help condition Marines for more strenuous hikes in the future said Maj. Michael Estes, the 11th MEU executive officer.

Photo by Pfc. Demetrius Morgan

Marines, sailors hone hiking skills

24 Aug 2012 | Pfc. Demetrius Morgan

Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s command element participated in a seven-mile hike here, Aug. 24.

Members of the MEU’s command element staged their packs early that morning in preparation for the unit’s first hike together since returning June 28 from a seven-month deployment.

The training event’s purpose was to bring the members of the command element together and build camaraderie. It is also used to condition Marines and sailors for longer and more strenuous hikes in the future, said Maj. Michael Estes, 11th MEU executive officer.

“The intent of this evolution is twofold,” said Estes. “The conditioning aspect of the hike ensures that our Marines maintain a certain fitness level while here at the MEU. The second intention is to practice and perfect our ability to move the MEU command element.”

Each Marine was required to carry an issued small-arms weapon and pack, filled with a basic, reduced load of issued gear that weighed approximately 35 pounds.

With the weight of the loaded packs, Marines and sailors stepped out to begin their hike.

“I know people who aren’t that good at hikes, so doing this is good,” said Cpl. Jason Almanza, a 22-year-old, embarkation and logistics specialist and Phoenix native. “The more we do these hikes the better we all will get.”

Marines who have trained in different areas have had different experiences with hiking. Cpl. Jordan Franco, a data network specialist with the 11th MEU, has his own methods when dealing with a hike.

“My adjustment to hiking here was natural because I went to Afghanistan almost immediately after graduating my MOS (Military Occupational School) school,” said Franco. “Before a hike I hydrate three to five days in advance and eat fruit the day of the hike because it’s light enough to not weigh me down but it gives me enough nutrients so that I’m not hungry on the hike.”

“During hikes, I sing cadences or my favorite song in my head. It’s easier to go on hikes when you’re not thinking about hiking”, added Franco.

At the halfway point of the hike, a proud moment in one Marine’s career was publicly displayed among the other Marines and sailors in attendance. Gunnery Sgt. Scott W. Dunn, the outgoing public affairs chief with the 11th MEU’s command element, re-enlisted for the fourth time.

“I didn’t really know what to say so I recited the Staff Noncommissioned Creed,” said Dunn. “I felt that the staff NCOs that I have worked with have carried me and taught me a lot so as a tribute to them I recited the Staff NCO creed.”

Upon completion of the hike, the Marines and sailors of the MEU returned to their duties. With more hikes already scheduled, Marines can expect the future hikes to be progressively more challenging.

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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit