CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group performs conditioning events throughout the year to test their Marines physical and mental capabilities.
These conditioning exercises also act as a way to bring Marines together to increase morale and camaraderie and serves as a tool to prepare them for the austere environments they may face on the battlefield or training exercise.
The latest challenge in the series of condition events was an eight-mile hike conducted aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 17, 2014.
Lieutenant General John A. Toolan, the I Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, and Col. James H. Herrera, the I MEF Headquarters Group commanding officer, led approximately 530 Marines on the hike.
The hike was part of a series of conditioning events conducted to ensure all of the Marines with I MHG are physically and mentally prepared for the demands of expeditionary operations. The series started last year with running events and gradually worked up to the eight-mile hike.
The conditioning hikes make sure all of the Marines in I MHG are physically prepared for combat deployments and the possibility of acting as an infantry support unit.
“No matter what your military occupational specialty is, at the end of the day we are all riflemen,” said Herrera. “A lot of the combat support units have become provisional infantry in the past and it’s all about training to the same standard.”
Conditioning hikes are a practical and safe way to ensure Marines are maintaining a superior level of physical and mental readiness that is required of them as part of an expeditionary force in the Marine Corps.
“We have this terrain in our backyard which is great, and the Marines are familiar with the training areas,” said Herrera. “Being in a familiar environment also gives us control of the different elements such as the distance of the hike and the weight in the packs [this] makes it much easier to ensure the safety of the Marines participating.”
In addition to the conditioning aspect of the hike, it also served as a bonding experience for the Marines who participated, said Lt Col. Wilson S. Leech, the executive officer for I MEF Headquarters Group.
“The main purpose of the hike was to get the battalion commanders out to look at the mental and physical conditioning of the Marines,” said Leech. “But, it also builds camaraderie by bringing the five different battalions and the command element who work on different parts of the base together. It’s great to get all of the Marines together and hike as a team.”
More conditioning runs and hiking events are being scheduled over the next year, one of which, is a 15-mile hike with weighted packs and rifles.
“I have confidence in not only the battalion commanders, but all of the Marines here that they are going to do well in all of the conditioning exercises that are yet to come,” said Leech. “Today was a good show of the Marines and their capabilities to push on and complete their mission, everyone here did a fantastic job and I’m looking forward to doing some more challenging hikes in the future.”