CAMP FUJI, Shizouka, Japan --
Marines and Sailors with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment woke the morning of May 15, 2017 to prepare their bags for a 50-mile hike. The battalion’s executive officer, Maj. Patrick Murray, coordinated a challenge which originated in 1908 when President Theodore Roosevelt signed Executive Order 989 requiring Marine Corps lieutenants and captains to walk 50 miles in no more than 20 hours. The order states, “In battle, time is essential and ground may have to be covered on the run; if these officers are not equal to the average physical strength of their companies, the men will be held back, resulting in unnecessary loss of life and probably defeat.”
More than 430 Marines and Sailors participated in the challenge May 15-17, 2017, and hiked in rough, mountainous terrain, which included 1,000 feet of elevation change from start to the turnaround point at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan, where the battalion was forward deployed from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Squad leaders strategized how their squads would complete the challenge; the only requirement was they had to start and finish as a team. While one squad completed 40 miles in one day, Cpl. Kyle R. Murray’s squad with Weapons Platoon, India Co. chose to trek 16.6 miles per day for three days.
“Our strategy basically was to cover as much distance as we could in one day without wearing ourselves out,” said Cpl. Murray, a squad leader and Mashpee, Massachusetts native. “Our goal was to walk the uphills and try to run as many straightaways and downhills as we possibly could.”
Leaders ensured the squads worked as teams by keeping their Marines together and motivating them to keep pushing. The top priority for this challenge was unit cohesion, said Maj. Murray.
Cpl. Murray’s squad portrayed unit cohesion and came in first place with a time of nine hours and 38 minutes, which beat the 1963 record of 9 hours and 53 minutes.
“Assault section has always been known to keep pace, and strive to be the best,” said Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Toner, a squad member of Weapons Plt., India Co. and Staten Island, New York, native. “Our leadership did a good job of making sure everybody was together.”