First Recon Challenge puts teams to the test


Fox Raiders
Jul 2, 2007
San Diego, CA
CAMP PENDLETON — Eleven two-man reconnaissance teams from as far as Okinawa converged at Camp Pendleton early yesterday for the Marine Corps' first Recon Challenge, a grueling competition that pressed competitors to their limits.

At 2:30 a.m., the teams dived into a pool as the competition began to find out who could swim, march and shoot their way to the finish line about 15 hours later.

“We are just trying to showcase a lot of the skill sets that are taught here at the Reconnaissance Training Center,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Wolf, a reconnaissance instructor at Camp Pendleton.

“We'd also like to generate more interest in becoming a recon Marine, so we can create a larger pool to have more qualified applicants.”

The Recon Challenge is modeled loosely on the Army's Best Ranger Competition, which has been around for more than 25 years.

Besides fostering camaraderie and competition, the competition acknowledges the growing importance of Marines with specialized skills.

“We've always held Marine recon on a high pedestal,” said Lt. Col. Chris Gideons, commanding officer of the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion School.

Gideons said an event such as yesterday's exemplifies the physical and mental endurance required of reconnaissance Marines, who often work behind enemy lines to provide military intelligence to commanders.

For years, the Marine Corps has struggled to recruit enough of the specially trained Marines.

“We talk to Marines about joining recon, and they say that it is too hard, that they could never do it,” said Staff Sgt. Victor Miller, a reconnaissance instructor. “We are not these guys who bench-press 500 pounds. We are regular guys. We want Marines to see that they can be one of us.”

They might not be supermen, but what the reconnaissance teams did just to finish was impressive: qualifying events in a pool, a one-mile ocean swim, followed by a 22.3-mile march carrying about 70 pounds over rugged mountain terrain, followed by an obstacle course, a marksmanship competition and a mile-long water-can run.

“If you break each event down, they are tough but very doable,” Wolf said. “It's putting them all together; that's what creates the true challenge.”

Gunnery Sgt. Chris May and his teammate, Sgt. Steven Goodnight, were the second team to make it to the obstacle course after the swim and the long hike.

Waiting to cheer him on were his wife, Kathy May, and their children, Ryan, 5, and Laina, 3, who carried signs of support.

“He's been stuck behind a desk for two years, and I think he really wanted to do this,” Kathy May said.

During a short break, Goodnight was asked how the two were managing.

“We make a good team,” he said dryly. “We hurt about the same.”

The Marines hope to make the Recon Challenge a multiday, annual event and expand the field by inviting more Marines and possibly members of other services to participate.

“We are trying to bring the recon community together in the spirit of competition. We'd like to open it up,” said Maj. Ben Pappas, commanding officer of the reconnaissance training company.

Besides the pride of being the first team to win the inaugural Recon Challenge, the winners of this year's event will receive a Navy Commendation medal.

As of press time, the winners had not been announced.

Rick Rogers: (760) 476-8212;

Rick Rogers: (760) 476-8212;
I noticed at the very end that they hope to expand it to a multi-day event. From attending a school conducted by 3rd Recon Battalion, I would guess they could make it a whole lot more difficult. For the selection phase of the school, they'd finish all top 10 places every single time. It was a HUGE wakeup call for me and the other non-infantry guys. I think all of their guys graduated the course too.

But who's to say that this will increase numbers for Recon? I think just about every Marine has heard of Recon, it's often a matter of having Cojones to try out, and time to attend one of the Indocs. Before they changed the procedures, I know of a few GREAT Marines that had roadblocks put in their way from attending the Indoc. I wonder how much the BRC has helped the Army Rangers expand their pool of candidates?
I wonder how much the BRC has helped the Army Rangers expand their pool of candidates?

I don't have the answer to that, but it is a really good question. I know 10 years ago no one outside the community had ever heard of the BRC. Now, with all the media coverage it is pretty well known, even with civilians. It had to have helped a little...