MUNSEU SAN MOUNTAIN, YOOGHUK DAE, GIMPO, Republic of Korea -- The U.S. and Republic of Korea flags lowered to half-mast, commemorating the 14th anniversary of the events on Sept. 11, 2001. After a moment of silence, Marines from both countries got ready for one last challenge here: a grueling obstacle course to cap off Korean Ranger School.
The ranger school was part of Korean Marine Exchange Program 15-12, a continuous training exercise designed to strengthen the partnership between the ROK and U.S. The exercise is as much about teamwork as tactics, and to that end, a bit of friendly competition can go a long way. Marines from both nations had just formally completed the ranger school; now they had to determine their pecking order.
“The competition is simple; between the four companies they will hold a relay race and the first ones finished are the winners,” said ROK Marine Cpt. Junggun Cho, the company commander for 2nd Company, 11th Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, ROK Marine Corps Headquarters. “The obstacles range from rappelling to rock climbing, and pulling yourself up the side of a tower.”
Four six-man teams consisted of three U.S. and three ROK Marines a piece. Officials chose the team members based on their performance during the ranger course.
The Marines’ roar of motivation and support echoed throughout the mountainside as the course began. A rock climbing wall, rappel tower, rope climb and a sprint to the finish made up the course.
“The obstacles are extremely difficult and challenging,” said U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Michael St. Cricq, a rifleman with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program. “You have to not only have the physical strength to pull yourself up or complete the obstacles but the mental strength to rappel off the side of a tower without hesitating.”
The obstacles proved quite a challenge as Marines struggled to push themselves through the harsh experience the obstacles provided. Covered in sweat and dust, the Marines tagged their teammates in the relay-style course.
“I am really glad I was able to participate side by side with the Marines,” said ROK Marine Lance Cpl. Sunghyun Lee. “I got to see up close just how capable they are and experience their friendship, and then I proved myself and our Marines could keep up with them.”
The U.S. Marines of Fox Company and their ROK teammates beat the other three companies as the close completion came down to a sprint. ROK Marine 2nd Company took 2nd place followed by ROK 1st Company closely ending with U.S. Weapons Company pulling up the rear.