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Civilians Get Some Hard-Corps Training

Civilians Get Some Hard-Corps Training

Jul 21, 2011

And how was the run, you ask? The one organized by -- gulp -- Marines. The setting was nothing if not sweet, what with the course winding through the historic and perfectly tailored grounds of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

However, it was the middle part of the Boot Camp Challenge held yesterday that, well, sucked the very life out of you. Made you want to crawl off somewhere and cry. Made you want to toss your morning Grape Nuts. You had to jump knee-high and then chest-high obstacles. You had to crawl and scamper in the dirt -- and never mind the very fashionable and expensive Nike tank top you were sporting. You had to drop and give them perfect push-ups. You got sprayed with a hose -- twice. You got to feel what's it's like to be a young, fresh-faced Marine recruit who faces these very obstacles. All the while, of course, helpful drill instructors shouted things at you such as, "Let's go, let's go, let's go! and: "Walking? Why are you walking? This, for your information, is called a race!" The drill instructors -- and there were 60 of them throughout the course -- would offer such thoughtful encouragement right in your ear and at considerable decibel levels. This three-mile obstacle run helped kick off Fleet Week, the annual celebration of the military presence in the area. And, speaking for the 1,800 or so participants in this particular event, this reporter can only say: "Gee, thanks. It was really swell of you guys." There also was a scheduled parade of Navy ships on San Diego Bay. (I should have gone to the parade.) Frank Tan, 44, might agree. "It kicked my (rear end)," he said of the course. "I thought they made you jump over some bales of hay and that was about it. It was brutal." But it was also -- and Tan would agree -- a blast. Marines from years ago came, to reminisce about the place where they learned to become one of the few, the proud ... Dennis Montoya, 68, went through recruit training at MCRD 50 years ago, and he itched for the chance to come back and check it out. Training was tougher back in his day, he said. But this race, now in only its second year, was a great way to turn back the pages. "It brought back memories," Montoya said. "A lot of tough memories, but fun ones, too." Mario Ayala, who went to boot camp at MCRD 20 years ago, came back with his wife and three children. He ran the race and survived -- somehow. "Boot camp was easier," he said. "I was in better shape." Most of the participants were civilians who were lured to the race for a number of reasons, one of them being the chance to see where the famed Marine basic training actually takes place. You eat the dirt the recruits eat. You sweat where they sweat. You get your knees skinned where they get theirs. And then, thankfully, you get to go home. The recruits don't have it that easy. The race drew both men and women. It drew young and old. It drew clean-cut former military types and biker-looking folks. It was a true melting pot of runners looking to be tested. And oh, they were. Marines fired people up, asking them before the start of the run to give a "war yell." Who knew they were serious? They urged everyone to finish, noting that the course was a "mere three miles." And it appeared that every one did, even sailors. Runners hit the finish line dirt-stained and sweaty. They were smiling and aching. One had a bloody nose. "I'm too old for this," said Mark Johnson, 52, who ran the race with his daughter, Shea. "But it was fun, challenging." Shea loved every minute of it. She's 16, though -- bless her.

By: Michael Stetz: (619) 542-4570; michael.stetz@uniontrib.com

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