Photo Information

Marines with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, gather around a bonfire during the annual Highlander Games Warrior Night aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jun 5, 2014. During the traditional event, Marines shared dinner, competed on the Highlander Games and enjoyed each other’s company while building camaraderie and esprit de corps.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Hurtado

1st LAR Highlander Games Warrior Night burns late into night

7 Jun 2014 | Lance Cpl. Ricardo Hurtado

Nearly 760 Marines with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion participated in the annual Highlander Games Warrior Night aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 5, 2014.

1st LAR, whose Marines are nicknamed “The Highlanders” after famous Scottish warriors of the 18th and 19th centuries, uses the event each year as a touchstone to the warriors after whom they are named.

The occasion, which aimed to develop unit camaraderie and esprit de corps, included a 4-mile hike from Camp Las Flores to Red Beach. 

Upon arrival at Red Beach, Marines shared dinner, and enjoyed each other’s company. 

Sgt. Colton Hoffman, a platoon sergeant with 1st LAR, Headquarters and Service Company, said the event is a battalion tradition and has been taking place since 1998. 

Year after year, the Highlander Games Warrior Night allows Marines to celebrate accomplishments, brotherhood and reminisce about past experiences and those who have gone before them.

“It’s a huge camaraderie-building event,” said Hoffman. “It gets us together to have food, drinks, and games and celebrate who we are and what we do.”

Hoffman said the anticipation of the Highlander Games Warrior Night grows among Marines of 1st LAR every year. 

“The Marines really look forward to this event,” he said. “There is always a lot of excitement about coming to Highlander night.”

Soon after dinner, Marines began competing in the Highlander Games. 

Hoffman said that companies compete during the games to take home the Claymore, a sword built by their engineer shop. 

The games were composed of events such as grappling, bull in the ring, iron man team, tire race, and a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle pull. One of the highlights of the games is the caber toss, in which a heavy, tapered pole is lobbed for distance.

“It’s all about strength, endurance, and it’s a chance for those who have special skills to rise,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Phil Bemis, operations chief for 1st LAR. For instance, he added in regards to the caber toss, “a 16-foot caber is pretty heavy, but I know there are guys out here that can probably out bench their own weights.” 

Lt. Col. Gilbert Juarez, the battalion commander for 1st LAR, who will be leaving the battalion this year, said he wanted to be part of Warrior Night one more time prior to his departure.

“I’ve spent 25 percent of my active duty commissioned time in this battalion; to me this is my family and this is a big part of a family tradition,” said Juarez. “It’s something I want to make sure it gets passed on to the next generations. It’s extremely important to me.”

In attendance of the event were Marine veterans who previously served in the battalion. 

“Tonight we have Marines from former 1st LAR who served in Iraq, we’ve had in the past [Operation] Desert Storm veterans,” said Bemis. “What that does is bring the past and the present together.”

While having a good time throughout the execution of games, safety was paramount.

Events such as grappling were supervised by Marine Corps Martial Arts Program Instructor Trainers and several Navy Corpsmen were available at all times. 

“There are three rules; keep it real, keep it safe, and keep it down range,” said Bemis. “We take care of our own from the lowest to the highest level.” 

Throughout the night, Marines also enjoyed live music and a bonfire which carried on up until midnight. 

The Marines hiked back to Las Flores in the morning, another Highlander Games Warrior Night now a part of 1st LAR’s storied past.