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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany


Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Marines and civilian take on Darton's Challenge course

By Cpl. Nicholas Tremblay | | May 9, 2002

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Focus Statement: Marines and civilians strengthen bond by conquering Darton College's challenge course.


Marine Corps Materiel Command employees recently completed Darton College's Challenge Course in Albany.

The challenge course is made up of an Alpine tower and a 27-element low initiatives course. The Alpine tower is 50-feet high and is built of logs with climbing grips, rope ladders and wood with cut-out foot and hand holds that participants can use for climbing. Participants also try to complete rescue tasks on the low initiatives course, a series of connected logs that are just a few feet of the ground.

In three days approximately 30 employees (10 people each day) learned a little bit more about themselves and fellow workers, said Gina Brown MatCom headquarters' professional military coordinator. The event was organized with the hope that it would bring MatCom Headquarters staff members closer together and promote teamwork.

"It was an opportunity for us to get out and work with other individuals in this command outside of our normal comfort zones," said Brown, who completed the course with a different work section. "I was able to meet people I never work with on a normal day-to-day basis other than at meetings."

Brown admitted that it was difficult to convince people to participate in the event at first because employees were unwary of the physical challenges they would face. However many of the participants, such as Brown, realized at the end of the day that the course was more mentally demanding than physically.

Col. Arthur Sass, MatCom chief of staff, and Brown predetermined a list of issues they wanted to address through the challenge course. So Timothy Becker, challenge course coordinator at Darton, had the group complete a series of tasks and events that would address communication, conflict resolution, consensus in cooperation and teamwork.

Becker, who has been facilitating groups through the challenge course for six years, said the groups are given tasks that they have to complete as a team, and at times the tasks can be difficult. Although teammates learn how to work together successfully, they learn the most once the task is completed. After the completion of each task the group evaluates how well they tackled the challenge.

"Before each task, the group sets a goal," said Becker. "Then after trying to reach that goal they discuss what they were doing, what they can improve as a team and what they can control within that group. It gives them the opportunity to hear what other people saw so they get the benefit of learning from others' perspective."

The employees were only there for approximately six hours and Becker knows that is not a lot of time to change people. But he tries to make the participants see that things can change and that as a group, they have a lot more control over their success than they realize.

"When they [participants] come out to the challenge course they see each other in a new way," said Becker. "They establish new feelings of comfort and they get to experience something as a group, away from the work place.

Work sections that are interested in strengthening groups skills and teamwork, can call Becker at 229-430-6778.

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