CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Before the sun rose the Friday prior to a long weekend, 1st Law Enforcement Battalion stepped off for an eight-mile hike aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 11.
Lt. Col. Jan Durham, commanding officer of 1st LE Bn., I Marine Expeditionary Force, said the hike is part of a quarterly training evolution consisting of an athletic competition, battalion run or hike.
“It’s [hiking] one of the things Marines do, and I think one of the things Marines like to do,” Durham said. “It’s part of our training program to keep Marines not only physically tough but also mentally tough. With some of those hills, it’s more about the mental aspect than it is the physical, and it’s team building as well.”
Cpl. Riley Moscherosch, an automotive diesel mechanic with 1st LE Bn., held the guidon, a symbol of pride and motivation for Headquarters and Support Company.
“I love hiking,” Moscherosch said. “It’s one of my favorite parts of the Marine Corps.”
Although the commanding officer doesn’t carry a guidon, he and the sergeant major hiked in front of the battalion and were the first to go up the hills.
“I think as Marines, and this is myself included, the respect that you give to your boss in some part distills from the knowledge that they aren’t going to ask you to do something they aren’t willing to do themselves and that they can’t do themselves,” Durham said.
Just after dawn, the battalion approached the day’s first real test as a unit, requiring the Marines to push each other over the obstacle.
“That first hill was a real gut check for everybody, myself included,” Durham said. “When we saw the road guards stop about half way up, I knew this was going to test a lot of people.”
At the beginning of the hike, Moscherosch’s company hiked in the front of the battalion, just behind the commanding officer. Moscherosch said, being from Wisconsin, he loves hills and the challenge they give.
“I paused at the top of the hill to say, ‘good job’ to each Marine coming up, because that hill was something else,” Durham said.
Throughout most of the hike, leaders of the junior Marines yelled and screamed to keep the lines tight and the Marines moving. To an outsider, the loud words of encouragement could be taken negatively, but Moscherosch assures the tradition is just like any team sport.
“In a lot of team sports like football, basketball or hockey, you get pumped up,” he said. “You start yelling at each other and slapping each other on the head. It’s the same mentality, trying to get the adrenalin going because a lot of it is physical, but most of it is mental.”
Durham said the mental and physical pain of the hike isn’t what matters most, because the lasting positive feeling for the Marines in the battalion is more significant.
“I think it kind of lifts your spirits,” Durham said. “You walk around a little bit sore the rest of the day, but you say, ‘OK, we went out there and did something today, as a team.’”
Throughout the eight miles of hills, demanding almost three hours of the morning, Marines struggled. But, as they neared the finish line, each company shouted a cadence with volume, pride and plenty of energy to continue forward as a team.