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Marines at Officer Candidates School recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of "The Quigley", a rigorous obstacle course that has stood the test of time since 1967.

Photo by Jim Andrews

50 years later "The Quigley" has the same wicked reputation

22 Jun 2017 | Jim Andrews/PAO Staff Marine Corps Base Quantico

The assignment given to then-1st Lt. William J. Quigley was simple and to the point. Create a course where "each candidate should look like they tangled with two constipated pit bulls, and lost." The result was a 50-yard section of the Officer Candidates School’s (OCS) Combat Course, filled with snakes in the summer and ice in the winter. It greets you with dirty and foul smelling water, barbed wire, concrete culverts and someone yelling at you from start to finish. It is an experience that normal people would call their worst nightmare, while Marine Corps officers just smirk and think of two words – "The Quigley."

Quigley was not your average first lieutenant charged with being the Tactics Officer at OCS, he was a seasoned, battlefield commissioned, former gunnery sergeant with multiple tours in Korea and Vietnam. It was those experiences and lessons learned which gave Quigley the insight and ability to create an obstacle course, which has bared his name, and stood the test of time, for 50 years.

"The Quigley" 50th Anniversary ceremony was conducted on June 16 at OCS. While retired Marine Lt. Col. Quigley could not make the trip, he did provide a letter which was written to the officers and Marines of OCS and was read by Capt. Devin Fultz , the officer which currently occupies his former billet as Tactics Officer.

"Fifty years ago on this date, "The Quigley" came into existence as the first candidates began their painful excursion through it," wrote Quigley. "Since that day, a half-century ago, "The Quigley" has been in continuous, uninterrupted operation."

While writing about the creation of the infamous course, Quigley remembered that the new commanding officer (CO) for OCS was unhappy with the lack of "teeth" in the current combat course and called him in his office. Due to Quigley’s Mustang background and combat experience, the CO challenged him to create a course that would, "not only challenge the candidates going through it physically, but also mentally," in order to attempt to simulate as much stress as possible. He made the course tough because Quigley knew future Marine Corps officers would face much more stress in combat.

In his letter, Quigley also wrote about the reputation the course has achieved in the last 50 years. Quigley shared two stories that brought laughter to the Marines gathered, even those about to experience it firsthand. The first was a story of Quigley overhearing a Marine Corps officer talking about his experience of going through "The Quigley." The officer stated, "It had to take one mean, hateful S.O.B. to come up with that thing!"

Quigley also shared that bestselling author Tom Clancy once stated "the mind that conceived this thing had to have been demented."

Lastly, Quigley thanked those Marines that currently operate and use "The Quigley." He emphasized all of those at OCS have the important mission of evaluating and training the future leaders of the Marine Corps, and their contribution to this mission was vital. He stated, those that train candidates "are as much a part of it ("The Quigley") as the barb wire and culverts that make it up."

The Commanding Officer of OCS, Col. Ahmed T. Williamson, also spoke for a few minutes on the impact "The Quigley" has had on Marine Corps officers in the last half-century. Williamson’s message to the OCS staff was one of legacy, memory and camaraderie, which may sometimes be forgotten by those who witness or are part of significant events. The phrase "commemorate and celebrate" he said, was something those among us occasionally forget to do.

Commemorating events and milestones is about recognizing the accomplishments of those which came before, Williamson declared.

In addition, Williamson’s powerful words were a reminder to celebrate special events in your career.

"Do not brush off promotions and reenlistments as just another day," he said. "Do not humbly ignore awards and praise for a job well done. Celebrate yourself and your Corps for all those Marines which are no longer here to celebrate."

Williamson highlighted that all Marines assigned to OCS have an important mission.

"It is about your talent and what you bring," he said. "Whether you’re academics or tactics or training, to create this environment to ensure we are shaping the next generation of Marine officer."

At the conclusion of Williamson’s remarks, a fire team consisting of Executive Officer Lt. Col. Glen Reukema, Cpl. Djessi Traore, 2nd Lt. Mikhail Gayner and 2nd Lt. Juan Rangel followed the guidance of Sgt. Damian Duckworth to demonstrate how to properly run "The Quigley."

As Duckworth directed the fire team though each part of "The Quigley," the water, mud and barbed wire, envisioned by Quigley 50 years ago, dripped and "occupied" all parts of those swallowed up by its overwhelming charisma. The fear and stress could be seen in their faces and their movements. They longed for a breath of fresh air as they made their way through the submerged culverts.

As they reached the end, they, like all those who came before them, realized that even after 50 years, those "two constipated pit bulls" still have a hell of a bite!


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