Annual mud race strengthens camaraderie
October 1, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- A few months ago I was asked by one of the company commanders in my battalion to be on his team for this year's Marine Corps Mud Run. The Mud Run is an annual event held at McCrady Training Center pretty much sums up the event.
It consists of about 4.5 miles of running, obstacles, and maneuvering through muddy water. My other team members included the brigade HHC commander and the brigade commander. As a second lieutenant and probably the most junior officer in the brigade, my response was probably the only one available: "Yes Sir." Honestly, as a second lieutenant, I have no delusions about where I fall in the rank structure or the fact that I am a quartermaster officer in an infantry brigade.
I would have to keep up with my brigade commander, an infantry colonel who could make or break my career, the HHC commander who looks like he could turn green when angered, and the company commander who ran a marathon through the mountains.
Bottom line, these are all leaders who have way more experience than I do and at this stage in my life, their acceptance of me as a Soldier and as an officer is important.
So, there we were at the starting line. We had decided to tape our shoes up and go shirtless. We watched as other teams struggled, laughed or finished strong to our left with a three-man or woman litter carry, covered in mud. There were more than 1,700 four-person teams and a new team started every 40 seconds. The past few months, we had communicated about the race; where we would meet, who owed whom money, but we never got together as a team to practice. My anxiety level was high. Should I go all out'
Would it look like I'm trying too hard to impress them' What condition are they in'
The race started and we took off at a moderate pace. More questions. Where should I position myself, toward the front' No, don't look cocky. Toward the back' No, you don't want to look weak, do you' Looking back, I probably read a little more into the situation than I should have. As we warmed up, my tension subsided and we fell into the race. We went over a few obstacles, they all stayed in toe. We kept running as a group and passed several others.
Finally, we got our first taste of the mud. It was a big pit filled with water, mud and logs. With no hesitation and without breaking stride we move through the obstacle quickly and as a team. We said very little. This was the case for much of the run. A short run, an obstacle, regroup, attack. When we did speak, it was mostly encouragement; or the brigade commander - who had more experience in the event - giving direction and advice. We ran, we swam, we climbed and we got really muddy. Toward the end, we had passed a lot of people, sustained no injuries, and were together as a team.
The last obstacle of the race was a three-man litter-carry. The colonel and I got there first and took the front positions of the litter, the company commander took the back position and the HHC commander jumped on.
Again, we did not coordinate who would go where. It was all silent directive and mutual understanding. We passed one last team before we crossed the finish line and immediately went to where a crowd was standing to see the race results. The results were slow to process and our patience was short. We were ready to get the mud off. We took a team photo, laughed and separated.
Although this may have been just a fun event for my teammates, I got the chance to see first-hand what the people who lead me are made of. I thought they would be evaluating me, but really it was I who developed an impression of them. I have high expectations of my leaders. I expect them to be able to put their money where their mouths are, so to speak. I want to be proud of them and say "that's my commander."
As a junior officer, I look to my senior officers to develop my own leadership style. I watch how they act around their superiors and their subordinates; how they interact with their families and the families of their Soldiers. I can say this will be a great memory for me, but more important, I will always keep myself aware of the fact that leadership sometimes is in the subtle details.
Editor's note: Second Lt. Michael Reed is the executive officer for Company A, 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception). He and the rest of team "Blackhawk" placed 117th with a time of a little more than 52 minutes. More than 1,700 teams participated in the event.