MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- It’s early, but the sky is dark as the sun yet to rise. A faint sound of diesel engines humming and gear shuffling can be heard from the buildings around Camp Horno.
The Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, gathered at 4:30 a.m. to make any last adjustments to their gear before setting off on an 11-mile hike through Camp Horno’s training area here, April 2.
In their packs the Marines carried a flak jacket, Kevlar helmet, water and miscellaneous training gear and donned their rifles to complete a full combat load.
“Hiking keeps the Marines physically and mentally prepared for any type of environment they might come across,” said 1st Sgt. Andrew Klatt, the Fox Co. first sergeant. “Wherever the mission is, you never know what’s going to happen. A boat might break down or a truck might break down, and you’re going to have to continue on foot with everything you need for the mission on your back.”
The company conducts hikes weekly to build strength, confidence and unit-readiness. The Marines began hiking just as the sun lit the foothills at 6:30 a.m. and navigated through Camp Horno’s training area until they reached their destination 11 miles later.
“Going over to Afghanistan, it’s a very mountainous terrain, so you always have to stay in shape,” said Lance Cpl. Erik Grohmann, a team leader serving with Fox Co. 2nd Bn., 1st Marines. “For the company to do it all together, it’s not only good for teamwork, it’s also to keep our bodies in shape and keep a combat toughness.”
Hikes also give small-unit leaders an opportunity to lead Marines and build camaraderie.
“Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses,” said Grohmann, a native of Milwaukee. “You’re only as fast at your slowest guy. As a team leader sometimes you have to push or motivate individuals, but it’s always a good learning experience each hike.”
For some Marines the hikes are mentally challenging, but for others it is a physical battle.
“Here in Camp Pendleton, with all of the hills, fire breaks and the trails we take, we constantly move up and down and travel on windy, uneven trails,” said Klatt, a native of Clio, Mich.
Private First Class Kieran Roberts, a rifleman and a native of Los Angeles said there are times where your feet hurt or your back hurts and you want to drop your gear and take a break.
“You have to keep moving alongside your brothers. We can never quit while training because we would never quit in war,” he added.
The 11-mile hike was only Fox Company’s first mission of the week. The remainder of the week, the Marines spent their time training for military operations in urban terrain.