MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VA --
U.S. Marine Corps instructors from across the Corps participated in the first ever “Fittest Instructor Competition,” hosted by Training Command on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, from April 11-14. The Marines fought for the title of “Fittest Instructor,” through a series of events that challenged them both mentally and physically.
“Each one of the 17 major subordinate commands hand-selected each of the instructors here, this was an event that was sponsored by the commanding general of Training Command, Brig. Gen. Farrell Sullivan.” says Lt. Col. Nicholas Gregson, the future operations officer of Training Command.
The leaders at Training Command believe fitness for Marines is a skill that must be taught, learned, practiced and maintained. They took that philosophy to heart during the Fittest Instructor Competition and didn’t just test the Marines’ fitness, but also brought in industry experts to expand their knowledge and understanding. This included classes focused on building the aerobic system when laying the foundation of fitness and combat effectiveness and learning how foundational movement capabilities lead to a greater capacity in the individual Marine, building to increased readiness and lethality.
“Most days have more than one physical event, and then we have the educational pieces as well,” says Kelsie Meade, a High Intensity Tactical Training Coordinator with Semper Fit on Marine Corps Base Quantico. “We have a class on program design, in terms of how to write a good workout for your Marines, correcting foundational movements, injury prevention, and running.”
The events took place in multiple locations across the base including The Basic School, Officer Candidate School, Marine Corps University, and Butler Stadium. Marines and civilians were invited to experience the competitors being pushed to their limits.
While the competitors consisted of sixteen Marines, the course wasn’t divided by gender or age. Training Command designed the competition to be gender and age inclusive. Eight of the ten events, like “The Gas Can,” a no-break Combat Fitness Test, and “Flight School,” a 30-minute workout requiring Marines to complete 10 sets of pull ups and rows, are based on existing Marine Corps fitness standards, However, other events, like “Front Towards the Enemy,” are max weight-based events and are scored based on the Wilks Coefficient, the USA Weightlifting/Powerlifting Standard.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Schmitt, who finished second overall, explained that while certain events were familiar, the competitors were challenged by simple changes. “[With] the Maneuver Under Fire, the only odd-ball there was instead of a
person being there for the buddy-drag and fireman’s-carry, it was a 150-pound, 4-foot long sandbag, and you had to kind of come at it with a strategy of how you were going to pick that up and get it across the field. So that one hurt, but it was actually a lot of fun.”
Changes like this challenged each Marine to adapt and overcome throughout the competition.
“It was a good experience to see people’s strengths and weaknesses and see people thrive through the events,” said Sgt. Christopher Martin, an instructor with Marine Combatant Dive Detachment, Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21, and the first-place competitor.
Scoring throughout the week was based on how each competitor finished the events. First place of each event earned one point, second place received two points, and third earned three. At the culmination of the competition, the Marine with the lowest total was awarded first place.
Sgt. Christopher Martin with Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida took top honors. Staff Sgt. John Schmitt with School of Infantry-East, Camp Geiger, North Carolina finished second and Capt. Stephen Dukes with Naval Justice School, Newport, Rhode Island finished third.
“It was just a great week about education, about running, and about being a better athlete,” Martin explains. “Competing against the best in the Marine Corps…It was definitely a humbling experience and I can't wait to come back next year if I have an opportunity.”
When it comes to fitness and advice for other Marines, Martin kept it simple.
“Just do your absolute best and put your best foot forward because if you don’t, you’ll have regrets,” Martin closes with. “If you do your absolute best, that’s all you could do.”