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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Marines overcome obstacles at Darton Challenge Course

By Joel C. Guenther | | September 23, 2008


Twenty Marines from various commands throughout the base took on a three-stage challenge course at Darton College Sept. 23.

The focus of the course was to build teamwork, increase decision-making skills and exercise leadership principles.

At the beginning of the day, the Marines participated in an orienteering exercise of the course.  The Marines were divided into teams and conducted a team-oriented exercise where they worked through challenges of the obstacle course and then finished with climbing a 52-foot tower, a more personal, obstacle-related event.

The theme for the first two events was “Snake Bit.”

Hypothetically, three members of the team were bitten by poisonous snakes and the team had to orient, with compass and by pacing, those bitten members back to the trauma center. There were 12 compass points they had to make to proceed through the exercise.

To make things more difficult, the victims were blindfolded and one had to be carried to two of the compass points. The Marines accomplished this mission with little difficulty, although several Marines commented that the most challenging part was navigating through buildings on the campus and through crowded parking lots.

The second event was working through the obstacle course, a series of six stations or platforms, fitting all of the Marines on each small platform and then taking them through increasingly difficult conditions.

Essentially, to reach each platform, they had to meet the requirements laid out before them such as carrying one of their members in a litter. Also, four Marines had to carry a pan of water representing venom which would be used for anti-venom to treat the bitten Marine, but they had to carry it with long strings connected to the pan and they had to carry it over, between, through and around logs in different formations.

Michael White, Darton College Challenge Course coordinator, said, “The challenges will get progressively more difficult, both mentally and physically.” He added, “At each platform, they have to think ahead. How is this going to help me for the next component of the challenge?”

White, who has a master’s degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration, said the purpose of the first two exercises, orienteering and the obstacle course, “is team building. At each one of the challenges, they will have to figure out things as a team. For instance, in this exercise right here (orienteering), they have to figure out how to put on the harnesses (for the litter) and who they will choose to wear the harnesses.”

White said that, overall, “It’s designed to push them to the point where they begin to disagree about what’s going on, and then they have to work through it a little bit more.” He added, “There is no right way or wrong way. It is just what can that group use that’s effective for them and their team.”

Sgt. Yalunda Jefferson, telephone outside plant technician, Communication and Information Systems Division, MCLB Albany, said of the obstacle course, “I think it’s very difficult. It’s very challenging to get the victim over to the other side of the course without dropping, injuring or re-injuring them.”

Sgt. Jeffrey Meadows, barracks sergeant/company clerk, Headquarters and Support Company, MCLB Albany, said, “Thus far, I’ve learned that just working on the team, you can have too many chiefs and not enough Indians or else the job won’t get done.”

Pfc. Luzcella Sanchez, travel claims clerk, Installation Personnel Administration Center, MCLB Albany, said, “First of all, it was a lot of communication. You had to agree with certain things in order to finish the task. So, communication played a big role in all of this.” She admitted, though, “Getting the plan was easier than the rest of it. Implementing the plan was the problem.”

Lance Cpl. Thomas C. O’Donnell, battalion armorer, MCLB Albany, was the first to climb the 52-foot tower to the top and then be lowered down. He said that he had made the climb before, but that this time “It was a lot windier.” He said he tried to go up a large, plank ladder that was somewhat taller than he was. “I had to almost jump to get a good grip on it.” This was about 30 feet in the air, supported by a safety harness.

According to Sgt. Antonio Garansuay, technology assistant, Mobile Maintenance Advisory Team, Marine Corps Logistics Command, the course was a leadership challenge.

       “Overall the course gave several Marines the opportunity to lead their team in coming up with a solution for each challenging obstacle while under tight time restraints,” he said.