MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N. C. -- The Marines and sailors of Alpha Company, Foreign Military Training Unit, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, received calls starting at midnight Thursday to report to the company office immediately for a 12-mile hike.
Groggy and tired, they formed up, shouldered their packs and stepped off on an exercise that tested both mental and physical preparedness.
Company “A” was accompanied by two military journalists who took photographs and asked interview questions throughout the hike.
In addition during each rest break, one team was selected to perform a timed practical application exercise using communication equipment. Slow completion of the exercise meant extra work for the team in order to catch up with the unit.
“This was a great learning opportunity for all those who were involved in the training,” said Maj. Michael Askelrud, Team-6 officer-in-charge. “This will keep our skills sharp, until we get a chance to use them in the field.”
FMTU Marines train for months in a variety of languages, weapons and explosives, both foreign and domestic. For some, this was their first hike with Company “A” and for most, the first hike with the added training.
The media trainers used camera flashes and asked questions during the darkest parts of the hike to prepare the FMTU troops for future media encounters.
“The media shadowing was a big surprise and it was well done,” said Sgt. Chayse C. Roth, an instructor with Team-6.
“We were given 15-minutes to set up for radio checks and call for an evacuation on different pieces of equipment we will use when we deploy,” Roth, the 23-year-old Nekoosa, Wis., native commented. “It was a really good training piece, especially when you are tired and it’s pitch black out.”
The Marines began the last leg of their 12-mile trek, as dawn neared and traffic poured onto base.
“There was some people with sore feet and a lot of exhaustion, but the hump was like any other in the Marine Corps,” Askelrud, a 36–year-old Milwaukee native said. “But in our jobs as instructors, the scholar-type warriors, this was a test of mental as well as physical strength and we did both well.”
Exhausted and soaked in sweat from head to toe, the Marines and sailors arrived home a little after 6 a.m. and were immediately dismissed for a well deserved chow break. For the leathernecks of FMTU, the training was a needed evolution for them to become the best instructors they can be.