PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Prior to Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Marines from the Marine Corps Detachment Presidio of Monterey held a formation run and Field Meet competition that turned out to be a bit more than it first appeared.

On the Presidio's historic Soldier Field the morning of Jan. 13, hidden within the physical challenges and friendly competition, was a practical lesson for the Marines on inequality.

Unknowingly, the Field Meet events the Marines were competing in were rigged. Ammo cans had been given different weights during a lifting competition, and different length running lanes were used in the relay race. A tug-of-war competition was held with a rope knotted only on one team's side to provide extra grip.

In all, the Marines competed in seven team events and concluded with each company selecting a representative to demonstrate their hand-to-hand combat skills with the pugil sticks, the latter being the only event in which no team was given an unfair advantage.

While many of the Marines eventually caught on to the uneven playing conditions as events progressed, the reasons behind it weren't made clear until after the competition.

Detachment Commander Lt. Col. Edward R. Sullivan gathered his Marines and addressed them with the following question.

"It didn't seem fair when you all had to participate in the same events but you weren't all given the same opportunities did it?" Sullivan asked.

"It made you want to give up sometimes, or grow resentful of the system. While I can say that in every event every company had the ability to win, the reality of it all was that to win at the disadvantage required an extraordinary effort," Sullivan added. "We did this as we enter the weekend holiday in commemoration of Doctor Martin Luther King to remind us of the hurdles different groups in our society have had to overcome in order to compete."

At one point during his address, Sullivan called the Marine Corps the greatest equalizing organization in the country.

"I don't care about your gender, I don't care about your belief system, I don't care about your race, and I don't care who you prefer to sleep with," said Sullivan. "I care about how you accomplish the mission."

In conclusion, before dismissing the Marines, Sullivan asked if they thought the journey of Martin Luther King Jr. was complete.

"I think we can do better than we are right now," Sullivan said. "Take a look around at this formation and ask yourself if we appear representative of the U.S.? Or, of the Marine Corps in general? Take some time over the weekend and think about what the MLK holiday really means. Think about how we can do better to keep the playing field equal."

For more photos of the event, visit