Aug. 29 -- Heavy breathing, rifles banging up against gear and the sounds of boots hiking along the terrain is what one can expect when the 11th Marine Expditionary Unit goes on a hike.
Two of the traits that a Marine must attain and maintain throughout their career: physical fitness and mission readiness. The 11th MEU has made it a priority to make sure that personnel have both of those traits by participating in various training events. This hike and all other hikes are used to test physical fitness and mission readiness.
“Hiking mainly challenges a Marine’s soul and spirit,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ji Young Kim, 11th MEU training chief.
Kim also said that hikes are used to increase the mental toughness of Marines with the MEU’s command element, so they can face any obstacle during the mission.
The sun had not even began to rise as Marines mustered in front of the headquarters to stage their gear and receive their weapons from the armory. After all gear was in hand and chow was received, MEU personnel boarded the buses to go to their designated hiking area.
The moment before stepping off was almost as intense as the hike itself. Some had displayed a relaxation with an implied confidence as they laughed and smiled. Others stayed silent and focused on the path ahead as if anticipating the rigors of what a hike brings.
The Marines stepped off at a steady pace. The silence had broken shortly after marching.
“When we started hiking, we were all talking about random stuff to pass the time,” said Lance Cpl. Ian Honer, 11th MEU data network specialist. “I feel like one of the ways to get your mind off of hiking is to talk amongst your fellow Marines because other wise you’re going to be thinking about the pain and that’s going to want to make you stop.”
MEU personnel hiked through dirt terrain with occasional inclines throughout the 8.5-mile hike.
The formation had stopped for its last break before hiking the last few miles on the beach. Hydration was frequent as Marines adjusted their gear for the home stretch of the hike.
“That was the worst part honestly,” said Honer. “Walking on the sand stinks because you have to put so much effort into moving any where even at a slow pace.”
After the MEU hiked on the beach, they headed back to the armory to clean and turn in their weapons.
The 11th MEU is scheduled to take part in future hikes on a monthly basis. With each month that passes, the hikes will be longer and Marines will be carrying heavier loads.
“Sometimes plans have to be adjusted due to other tasks,” said Kim “That is the reason for increasing the weight and distance for each hike.”
The sounds of heavy breathing, gear colliding and boots marching along the terrain had stopped for now, but one can still expect to hear those same sounds the next time the MEU goes on a hike.