Written by Lt. Cmdr. Sean Plankey.
Over the past year I’ve been working at U.S. Cyber Command, a sub-unified command under Strategic Command. This billet is one of the few billets in the Coast Guard detached in support of Department of Defense operations. The joint environment is an interesting and amazing experience. Sitting side-by-side with Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force servicemembers, I’ve learned the many different tendencies, requirements and general practices of each service.
In my experience the Coast Guard aligns most commonly with the U.S. Marine Corps. We are both small services that believe in empowering our people and maintain an overall level of pride and morale amongst our people. Based on these similarities I am privileged to have created positive relationships with both officer and enlisted Marines in my office.
Sometimes these relationships lead me to unique operational opportunities. And on one recent morning, these relationships led me to an 0630 meeting on the PT field.
You see, the afternoon prior, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Butler asked me a few questions in a conversation that went something like this:
“Sir, how much do you weigh?”
“About two hundred fifteen pounds, why?”
“Perfect, can I carry you for my fitness test tomorrow?”
Butler wanted to carry me for 40 yards in the required fireman’s carry portion of the Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test. It turns out I am within the required 10 lbs. of his weight for a fitness test battle buddy. Without me, Butler would have to carry a fellow marine who weighed 235 pounds, 20-plus more pounds!
Of course I agreed to help, but not just wanting to be a prop for the test I told him I would complete the test too. As Coast Guard members we are first responders and should be in shape at all times, ready to act in times of need. Seriously, how tough could it be?
Well, the next morning at 0630 I was definitely having second thoughts. I had just returned from a four-week temporary duty assignment and the test was in ODUs, or “Boots & Utes” in Marine speak. The test consisted of an 880-yard run, a 35-pound ammunition can overhead press, and “movement under fire,” a 300-yard shuttle run and obstacle course.
The 880-yard run kicked off with Butler sprinting out the gate. Figuring he knew how to pace himself, I just ran behind him. I forgot that Marines have two speeds, fast and kill. Neither speed lasts for 880 yards, so after lap one, we were both barely hanging on for lap two. I was able to finish the run in three minutes – or nine seconds off max score time. At this point I knew I had to max the next two events for a respectable showing, but I was definitely struggling. It was a little brisk that morning and many of us were getting a good cough from the cold air in our lungs.
After the allowed five-minute rest, I jumped up to the ammunition can lift. Pumping these out I quickly got into the 70-repition range. The last 20 were tough but to the chagrin of my Marine Corps counterparts I finished under the two-minute time limit with 98 repitions, including, “One for the Guard!”
The last event was the maneuver under fire. In this event, you start on your back, get up and sprint 20 yards, low crawl another 10 yards, six-point crawl 10 yards more, run a zig zag and then drag your battle buddy 10 yards before you fireman carry him 40 yards. After that you carry two 35-pound ammunition cans 40 yards, throw a dummy grenade, do three pushups, and sprint back 50 yards with the ammunition cans – all in under two minutes and 27 seconds, based on my age.
Maneuver under fire went great until the 40-yard fireman’s carry. I had forgotten, if I’d ever known, how much 215 pounds feels like on your shoulder for 40 yards! Thankfully my Marine Corps battle buddies had plenty of motivational words to get me to dig deeper. I finished with a time of two-minutes and 26 seconds, one second better than the max score time for my age!
Compiling all of my scores I finished with an overall score of 296, four points off max score. Not bad for my first time and with only 12 hours of advance notice! Thank you Staff Sgt. Butler and the rest of the Marines for the opportunity to serve and compete with you.
Competing with those Marines and jumping into an unfamiliar situation was a reminder that mixing it up when it comes to getting and staying fit, is a rare opportunity on a joint deployment. I look forward to more inter-service physical fitness opportunities during my time in Afghanistan.
If you or your unit has a unique way of staying fit, let us know using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.
For more information on the Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test, head over to their official website.
Lt. Cmdr. Sean Plankey is currently assigned to U.S. Cyber Command as the Weapons and Tactics Officer in the J3 Operations Division. Right now he is on a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan as a member of the Expeditionary Cyber Support Element under U.S. Forces Afghanistan.