CAMP PENDLETON, CA – Reconnaissance Marines pride themselves on being “swift, silent and deadly” and demonstrated it by competing in this year’s 3rd Annual Recon Challenge, May 21, at Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry.
During the two-man team challenge, which began at 4 a.m., the 18 teams of Recon Marines fearlessly hiked up some of the base’s most intense hills, swam through ice-cold waters, conquered the Corps’ traditional obstacle course, conducted circuit course exercises and then finally displayed what every Marine is known for, marksmanship.
The event kicked-off with a 7-mile hike up Pendleton’s infamous Recon Ridge while carrying a 50-pound pack. Upon completion of the hike, which led them to the beach’s coast, the Marines swapped their boots for fins and plunged into the waves to start their two-kilometer swim out to sea.
“Swimming out to sea was the most difficult portion of the event because of the intensity of the waves,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Cullen, one of the winners of this year’s challenge. “You couldn’t stop pushing against the current because if you did, the waves would take you back to the beginning, and in this event you need every ounce of strength your body can produce.”
Together, Cullen and his teammate Gunnery Sgt. Collin Barry underwent more than 4 months of constant physical training to help prepare for the challenge.
Cullen and Barry finished the challenge in first with a time of 9 hours, 24 minutes and 8 seconds.
“We trained together very religiously and were always there to push one another,” said Barry. “We both knew the harder we pushed ourselves during training the more it would pay off in the long run.”
Following the swim, the Marines were given the order to drop their packs, but only to run through Camp Horno’s obstacle course … twice. And just to make this tougher, they were required to disassemble a M249 Squad Automatic weapon light machine gun at the end of the first run and reassemble it after their second pass.
Then, with little rest, the packs went back on for a hike where the teams participated in a qualification course, utilizing M4 carbine assault rifles and a M9 Berretta pistols that required high levels of accuracy.
“My partner and I pushed each other every step of the way,” said Cullen. “We laid it all out on the line and gave it our all the whole time, not only because we wanted to win but because we never quit.”
Coming in at second and only 15 seconds behind first, was Staff Sgt. Kirby Fanus and Staff Sgt. Luke Fuchs. In third place were Sgt. Duncan Shuler and Sgt. Lucas Chaffins with a time of 10 hours, 4 minutes and 29 seconds.
At the conclusion of the challenge, competitors’ family, fellow Marines and friends congratulated them on their efforts and joined them for a celebration, which offered free food, music and an award ceremony.
“The odds were against us and I believe that is what gave us the drive to finish this challenge on top,” said Cullen. “This win definitely makes me proud to be a Marine but even more so, a Recon Marine.”