Posts Tagged ‘Corps Strength’

Corps Strength – Step It Up

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

In my opinion one of the most basic measures of useful fitness is the ability to carry a load. No smart ass not that type of load, LOL. What I mean is the sheer physical ability to carry something from one place to another, this is nothing fancy, it’s just about getting that whatever, from here to there. Infantryman , Urban and Wild Land Firefighters, SWAT guys, lumberjacks, masons, etc, all have to deal with moving weight around and there are many other jobs that require you to lift and carry weight.


This straight forward ability is a real measure of overall body strength, endurance and durability. It also has a tough mental component as it can only really be developed through hard grind workouts, however as a foundation of fitness it has no equal. Now having said all that what is the best way to obtain and maintain this component of fitness? In the military forced marches with heavy packs is the go method to for them. Firefighters and SWAT guys train with gear and workers that have to bear weight do so every day as part of their jobs. But if your a person that isn’t in one of these occupations you can still gain a lot of benefit from doing some training in this area.


For myself and others I’ve trained, I’ve seen the best results (in the shortest amount of time) from stair climbing with a weighted vest. Now while from time to time I do some long hikes humping a heavy pack, but for really digging into this, I find weight vest stair climbing is the best. I’m not talking about running up and down stairs, which without a vest is mostly an aerobic workout, but deliberately paced weighted walking up and down stairs. One good thing about stairs is that they are pretty much every where; indoor fire escapes are in every building and outside there are parks, sports stadiums and many other places that have some great places to climb stairs. Here on base where I work there are several places, but my go to is a 44 step outdoor fire escape on the base auditorium building. Once a week I throw on my 40lb vest and stair climb. I walk without holding the rails on the way up, but do so on the way down to keep from busting my clumsy ass. Normally I will do around 45 laps in an hour (51 is my PR). Now that may not sound like much but look at it this way. The standard amount of steps per floor in a new high rise is 12. So 45 laps of 44 step is 1980 steps (counting up only), or 165 floors. Look at it this way, that’s the equivalent of climbing the 104 floors of One World Trade Center with an additional 61 floors. It’s a tough workout and though I normally run 2-3 times a week otherwise, this hour of stair climbing is a much harder overall body workout than running or lifting weights. My legs, back and hips are always sore the next day. It’s not easy, and at times a little boring, but I do it asI know it provides me a level of conditioning no amount of just running or gym work ever would.


The weird thing is I’ve had more than a few people attempt to caution me as too the long term effect of this workout on my back and knees, but I’ve been doing this exact type of workout for many years and never had any injuries from it. In fact it’s been the opposite, I think it has helped me prevent injuries by strengthening the core muscles and other tissue around my joints. I feel the immediate benefit when I go backpacking with my sons. We are doing some rock climbing and backpacking in the Adirondacks and in Yosemite this summer and I know by investing an hour a week in this workout will have me in prime condition for those trips. I highly recommend this for those who want to take their conditioning to a higher level without a large time investment. Start with a light load and short time and increase as you get used to it. Be sure to warm up well prior to and stretch out thoroughly at the end. Be cautious coming down, you don’t need to rush and I would recommend never to run on stairs with a weight vest, to easy to fall and get hurt. Give it a try, it’s not easy but well worth it if you are looking for a way for you to amp up your core fitness.

Be Safe always, Good when you can

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – The Choice Of Fitness

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Most people understand that when you decide to make the military a career, it’s going to be hard on your body. It’s part of the deal we make with Uncle Sam; especially so for those serving in the combat arms of their service. Now if we’re lucky (and we work at it), we’ll make it to the end of a military career in one piece and without too much wear and tear on our old ass. Yes; aches, pains and some worn out body parts are unavoidable, however I contend that other than a real disability, you can still maintain a surprisingly high level of fitness at any age. Not always easy to do, but not as hard as some people may think either. I offer a recent example of why this is important for anyone who wants to continue to live life fully for as long as possible.

Over the past two weeks myself and an active duty Sailor deployed to Antigua to train some of their Army, Coast Guard and Law Enforcement personnel. The instruction was classroom only, focused on Force Protection, LOAC, ROE and some basic leadership topics. They were good students and the classes went well. We enjoyed some perfect caribbean weather and a relaxed schedule that allowed us plenty of time to see the island. Antigua is well know for its warm clear water and seafood and we got to do a fair amount of snorkeling. (My training partner doesn’t dive, so we were limited to snorkeling).

Taking advantage of this we went out a few times with the intent of gathering some lobster and conch. However the pickings were pretty weak around the close in reefs. Our students told us we needed to get a boat and go out to the more off shore reefs. Despite some promises, a boat was never produced. So a few days before we were scheduled to depart, I suggested to my partner that we just swim out to one of the reefs that was off shore from the base we were staying on. We had been told that this was especially good hunting as that area was off limits to civilians, but we had permission to go there.


He begged off as the the water between the base pier and the reef was about 60 feet deep and at least a 1/2 mile out as years ago the British had cut a deepwater channel for their larger ships. I had made open water swims of over a mile (yes, it had been awhile) before and I didn’t think this would be an issue, but he wasn’t that confident in his swimming ability so he decided he would rather stay near the pier. I was determined to try for some lobster and conch so donning my gear and grabbing a mesh bag I headed out alone. The water was crystal clear and piss warm with no current to speak of and I made it to the reef pretty quick.

From there I made dozens of dives to depths of up to around 20ft off the reef to gather up a bunch of conch but, despite a lot of looking, no lobster. After a couple of hours I had completely filled my bag and decided to head back. Now in case you haven’t done it, swimming with about 20lbs of conch isn’t easy, (they don’t float). It was a pretty tough and slow swim back. A couple of times I considered dumping the conch, but thinking of how good they would taste, I swam on.


Eventually I got back to the pier where my partner was waiting, empty handed. With some ice cold beer we cleaned up the conch and the next day the chow hall made us an awesome stew from the fresh conch meat and we had enough for our whole class. The obvious fact here is that if I hadn’t maintained my fitness at a high level, this great little adventure would have never even had a chance to leave the pier, (or I could have drowned on the way back) and this is just one example of how I’ve been able to take advantage of many opportunities like this over the years and that is not by chance, but a conscience choice.

The main point here to consider is that we will all make a decision on how we want to live our lives. This can be a un-conscience or conscience decision, but you will make it, one way or the other. You may decide that there are some things you want to experience and you know they will require a high level of energy, health and fitness to really enjoy. To choose this option will take some effort and discipline to get and stay in the condition you need. The second choice is easy, just kick back and become a spectator. No effort, no pressure, just relax, let other people have the fun. If that is good enough for you, fine, however It’s not for me, nor do I think its for most of the people reading this.

At age 56 I’m not going to deploy back to Iraq, but there is many things I want to do yet and they involve mountains, oceans, bikes, skis and kayaks. Not Tv’s, computers or hammocks. If you feel the same way, make a conscience choice and get your ass in the shape you need to do what you want to do. My book can help show you the way and honestly t’s not that hard, but you have to make the choice. BTW shining a chair with your ass isn’t a real choice for guys like us, but I’m guessing you know that already.

Be safe always, be good when you can

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – The Fitness Balancing Act

Sunday, March 27th, 2016


One of the most common mistakes people make when putting together a PT routine is a lack of balance. I have a good buddy I work with, who is our SET (Specialized English Training) instructor here at the international school house. A couple years back he pulled a tour in Afghanistan training Afghan officers english. While he was there, he decided to lose some weight and get himself in better condition. Now as a DOD civilian and never having been in the military, his go to PT was mostly playing sports like basketball and softball. Despite that he started walking and running around the airfield and he put himself on a strict diet. Slowly he got in better shape and lost weight, the fact is he lost a lot of weight. He went from over 260 lbs (at 6’3”) to 190lbs during his year deployed. When he came back home, his family didn’t recognize him. It was a great accomplishment and he was determined not to regain the weight.

So then he comes back to the states and even though he continues running, his reintroduction to a normal life and 24/7 access to food (and beer), had him gaining weight again, (another common occurrence). His response was to increase his running mileage. But despite running around up to 50 miles a week he couldn’t keep his weight down and he was becoming completely burnt out on running. Things then went from bad to worse when his back started acting up. Obviously too much running was causing it. I had tried to get him to vary his workouts, as I knew that just running everyday would lead to this, but as he had such good success before with running he resisted my advice and just tried to gut through it.

However with his injury and burnt out attitude he eventually relented and we got him started on some weightlifting, calisthenics and a lot of stretching (something he hadn’t been doing much of), every other day. As you could guess his upper body was weak and he was very stiff, but we started slowly and he cut his running down in the process. With that he got his diet back on track, as when he was running a lot he felt he could eat anything and as much as he wanted, but he found out the hard way that you can’t out run a bad diet.

After about a month he had pretty much healed up and his weight was back down to 190. More importantly his attitude was reset. I wasn’t surprised, as I’ve seen the same thing in people that just run, lift weights, or just do any single activity for their PT program. You have to give your body and mind some variety if you want to maintain a successful long term workout routine and eating plan. We all like to do what we’re good at, however its been my long experience that people do better at their favorite activity if they throw in some different stuff on a regular basis. They often find out that they really enjoy something new once they give it a try. Like most things in life, keeping it in balance is the key to long term success. I’m off to Antigua for a few weeks to train some of their Coast Guard and Law Enforcement people and I’m sure I’ll see something there to talk about when I get back next month. Till then; “Be safe Always, Good when you can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Mindless and Mislead

Monday, February 29th, 2016


Here on NAS Pensacola, the International Training Center where I work, is located in the same building as Navy API. Which is the Aviation PREFLIGHT Indoctrination for new Navy and Marine aviation officer students. Every once in awhile we have a new Ensign assigned to us that is on Med hold for an injury. They’re assigned to help our staff with admin stuff while they heal up. To me they’re just kids, right out of OCS, or the Naval Academy. They’re always very bright, motivated and to me; fun to be around as I always like to hear their fresh (if not sometimes naive) perspective on things. Plus of course as the old Master Gunny, I feel responsible to help them out with what ever advice and guidance I think may help them going forward.

This last month we had a young Ensign who was with us because of an ankle injury. So he was sent to me to PT with. I told him he could PT with me, but PT goes at 0545 and he had to follow my routine. He was game and surprisingly (unlike most) he showed up on time and ready to go the next morning. We started off easy, as the point was to help him get back in shape, not break him again. He was in ok shape, but a little chunky, so over the next few weeks we slowly ramped it up. He made good progress, his ankle was fine and he could pass the PRT with no trouble. However, I told him that he needed to get his diet in order so he could drop the excess 10-15 lbs he was carrying.

At that, he proudly stated that he had just purchased a delivered meal plan (over $500, including supplements) that says he could lose that much weight in 30 days. I asked him, “Huh, don’t you have a degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Academy? “Yes”, So you must be educated enough to realize that plans food is just over priced, processed crap? Don’t you think you can figure this out better yourself.” “Well” he said, “Your’re probably right, but I want some fast easy results, without having to think about it.” “Ok, so using that mindset, later if your squadron CO asks you to provide him with a 30 day training plan for his pilots, your go to answer is to provide him with the plan that requires the least amount of thought? The thought process here being that something mindless works best?” Blank stare, “Well I never thought about it that way? Not thinking at all was your mistake, as you were looking for something easy first, sorry to say life doesn’t work that way pal” The right answer to any problem is rarely the easiest. Now that doesn’t mean some effective can’t be simple, many times simple is the best answer, but in any case only the right thinking will get you there.” Mindless as a plan, isn’t a plan, it’s a disaster in the making.” From this I got the “Buy in” look I wanted and we went from there. As we say in the Marine Corps: “Never miss an opportunity to train.”

However, this was really no surprise as there is a whole industry built around this fantasy that you can get real lasting results from something mindless. These 30-60-90 day plans are very popular, they all tout great results without meal preparation, thought or much effort. You just send us money, follow our plan (eat the cardboard we deliver) and you’ll wake up 30 days later and be awesome. To bad it’s almost all just marketing Bullshit. You wouldn’t think that smart people would fall for this stuff, but they do to the tune of many millions of dollars a year. Does it work? For some it does, but I’m pretty sure for most it doesn’t for the simple reason is that its not sustainable for the long term. Like I always ask people, are you going to eat (take) that stuff for the rest of your life? The overwhelming majority of people can’t and because they didn’t learn anything from that “mindless” process, will soon be overweight and out of shape again.

The fact is maintaining an effective long term exercise and eating plan does require some thought and planning. Relatively speaking it’s not that much, but some. Certainly much less than to takes to work a job, serve in the military or raise a family. In my book “Corps Strength” I not only lay out a simple and effective plan, but I go into all the necessary detail on developing the right thought process and planning that you need to make this work long term. You don’t have to be a new Ensign to learn something from the old Master Gunz; Mindless never works.

Be safe always, be good when you can.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – IPAL

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

In my present position as an instructor at the Navy’s International Training Center (NITC) I teach many different subjects in several of the different courses we run here. However, my favorite course is the International Professional Advanced Leadership course (IPAL). It’s my favorite because frankly I wrote most of the curriculum, developed the Leadership Reaction Course and (to the constant worry of my Navy CO) run the PT program. I designed this course based on the model of the Marine Corps SNCO career course and it’s open to all branches of international military, LE and Intel services. In the last five years we’ve had students attend from over 60 different countries, that have all levels of military experience, training and physical conditioning.

Before our last IPAL class started we learned that we would have a student that was a 46 year old police officer from a small African country. Now I didn’t give it a second thought, however there was considerable worry and concern over this persons ability to handle our PT program. I assured the command that if he was just in good general health and had no physical limitations he would be fine as this wasn’t my first bus ride training out of shape, older people. However after several meetings generated even more concern from the head shed, it was recommended that he be given the “option” of attending PT, or not. I flatly dismissed that and I strongly reminded everyone that this course is first and last, a leadership course and it was inconceivable that we would allow one student to “Opt out” of what the rest of the class would be required to do, PT or otherwise. IMO this went against every basic tenet of leadership training I had every learned. It turned out to be a heated debate and I ended up having to standing on some desks in full Master Gunny mode to make my case.

In the end the CO sided with me and it was decided that he be required to PT with the rest of the class, BUT I was directed to be very mindful of his advanced age when we ran PT, (Advanced? I found this funny as they seemed to forget that the PT instructor was 55). In any case the students arrived and the one in question looked exactly as you might have guessed; overall thin, with a slight gut and no visible muscle tone. He was about 15 years older than the next oldest student. After questioning them (as I always do), about what their PT program was, it was apparent that this senior police officer had done very little in the way of PT during his adult life. However he was professional and actually seemed excited to have the opportunity to get learn about fitness and to participate in a structured program.

Now there is only so much you can do in six weeks and the overall goal of our program is train students in how to develop and maintain a PT program in their own country, not to bring them to a high level of fitness. However, while this isn’t Marine Boot camp or Ranger School, it’s no sissy program either. We run PT 3X a week for an hour each and gradually ramp up the intensity. The workouts are purposely structured to allow those that are in better, or worse condition to preform and improve at their own level. So there was no need to make special adjustments to the program for him. Over the six weeks he participated fully in all of the different sessions that we did. Yes, he was very slow (with some walking) on all the initial runs and he struggled with calisthenics. However, with encouragement from his classmates and staff ,he steadily improved. Along the way he lost body fat, gained strength and remained injury free. At the end of our course we made a Field Studies Program trip to San Diego. In between visiting the USS Theodore Roosevelt and MCRD San Diego we took a day off and made a hike up Mt. Woodson to the famous; “Potato Chip Rock” (see pic) just outside of the city. We made steep hike up the 3 mile trail with “Robo Cop” (this was the nickname the other students gave him) leading the way without a hitch. He remarked that he never would have considered doing something like this before he came to our course and felt that he was in the best shape of his life.


To the dismay of the head shed (and my great amusement), at the completion of the course he remarked at the final debrief that the PT program (and the hike), was his favorite part of the course. He also intended to continue his new fitness routine, AND to incorporate this with his officers when he returned home. Now the point of this story? It’s that people tend to seriously underestimate what can be done when it comes to getting in shape and improving their health. Especially if they’re presently out of shape, or haven’t exercised much in their life. This story is just one example of many that I have personally witnessed over the years. The fact is a simple and consistent exercise program can produce amazing results if people would give it a chance and it doesn’t matter how poor your present condition is or how old you are. Give yourself a chance and don’t listen to the doubters, especially if that doubter is yourself.

Be safe always, be good when you can.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – The Real Apocalypse

Saturday, December 19th, 2015


As a Marine and life long gun guy, I do my best to get to the range on a regular basis. Plus as a citizen that carries a Concealed Carry Weapon, I feel it’s a serious responsibility to keep my skills up, not just for my sake, but for those around me. Depending on what shooting I go to several different ranges in my area, both outdoor and indoor. Shooting is very popular down here, not that it’s not in other places, but the fact we have decent weather year round and very little restriction on gun ownership (good thing), the ranges are almost always crowded.

In these crowds you’ll see a wide range of different types of people. People shooting hunting rifles, home defense folks, skeet shooters, men, women and kids of all ages and different ethnic groups. A wide range of skills and experience for sure but overall good people. With that there is one group that always shows up (in larger and larger numbers as of late) and I’m sure you’ve seen them; the camo down, geared up, military style guys. I’ve seen this group at ranges all over the country and within the law people are free to do what ever they want and I would be the last one to try and tell free people what to do with their time and money.

However one thing that you notice with this group other than the obvious fact that they’ve spent a lot of money on gear and weapons is that most (not all) are way out of shape. I have always found this a curious thing. Meaning that if you are into the whole military thing (from my experience, most aren’t or never have been in the military), you would think that you would also want to at least get into reasonable physical shape like the military? I have heard many of these people speak about “Prepping” and their fear of a coming “meltdown” of society, in which they would be need to prepared with weapons, food, etc. to survive on their own. I know these people are well stocked with all the best gear, but in a real situation all that stuff and planning won’t mean anything if your body can’t hold up (let alone perform at a high level) in a tough situation. To be honest seeing these people squeezed into expensive tactical gear is funny to see and has become a joke on the internet (where I got the attached picture), as it’s so common. So it’s not just me noticing this.

In reality, I’ve seen this actually play out during some of the major hurricanes we’ve had down here. I’ve see people that were in poor condition (and not just older people) have a very hard time dealing with the stress of evacuating and the recovery afterward. Just for one example, I saw out of shape people in my neighborhood that were virtually helpless trying deal with the aftermath of hurricane Ivan. The heat, humidity were extreme and there was no power for over a week, so no AC. Myself and several other Marines spent a lot of time helping these people (neighbors) and we were glad that we could, however I hate to think what would have happened to them without help. Some ended up in the hospital anyway.

My point is this (and I’ve said this many times before), is that you have to “prep” yourself first. Before you gear up Rambo, get yourself in at least reasonable shape. My book Corps Strength lays out a simple and effective way to this and costs about as much as one box of 9mm. Get in shape and be truly ready to deal with the real world. Not to mention you’ll avoid having your picture become an internet joke.

I hope everyone has a Merry and Safe Christmas. Enjoy time with your family and friends and be sure to say a prayer and raise a glass to our brothers and sisters serving in harms way during the holidays.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Damascus Steel Vs. Cast Iron

Saturday, November 14th, 2015


As a career Marine it would probably not surprise anyone that besides being a PT nut, I’m a gun freak and knife whore. I own way more than enough of each, especially knives. I have a huge tool box full of knives of every size and description and with that I’ve done a fair amount of research into how different knives (and swords) are made. If you have a similar interest then you know about cutting tools made from Damascus steel. In a (very small) nut shell this is a complicated process of forging that involves folding and inserting different types of steel over and over. This technique produces a blade that is made up of layers and and layers of steel, like a car spring. When this method is preformed by a skilled craftsmen, the end result is a blade of extreme strength and resilience that has an unmatched cutting edge. Some Japanese Samurai swords have thousands of layers and despite being hundreds of years old, are pristine in appearance and are some of the toughest and sharpest swords ever made.

Now this concept of sword making relates in an important way to physical fitness, especially long term fitness. What i’ve observed over many years is that (most) people who participate in a wide range of different methods and activities to stay in shape, have much better success. I’ve found the opposite to be true with those that specialize in one or two activities. Most people that I’ve seen do very little other than hit the weight room and/or run, have inconsistent long term results and are also the most prone to injuries.

I think the reason for this In that your body is in some ways like a piece of knife steel. Meaning that different doing activities can provide different “layers” to your core fitness. Just as cycling can improve your running and weight lifting can improve your punching power, or Judo throws. Too many people like to just stick with what they’re good at, it’s human nature. When a young man finds that he can out bench press all his buddies, it’s hard to keep him out of the weight room. A girl that discovers she is the fastest runner in her class, will most likely develop running as her go to fitness activity. My thing was as a boxer was that I was a heavy puncher, so I loved to hit the heavy bag when lots of people we’re around to watch me. No doubt that I would have been a better fighter if I spent less time on the bag (showing off) and more time working on defense. Concentrating on one thing will condition just one set of muscles. This approach develops fitness thats more like cast iron. Yes cast Iron is very strong in certain ways, but it’s also relatively easy to break and over time it will rust out.

The point here is that in the long run you’re better off to widely vary your PT routine. Each of these different activities (when used in a balanced program) will act like a different layer, strengthening and conditioning a different set of muscles. Like the Damascus steel, this layering concept develops resilience and a great depth of conditioning you can’t get from just doing one sport. I also think it’s good for your attitude, as it keeps your outlook on PT fresh and motivated.

So mix up your PT, be like layered steel, not a piece of rusty cast iron.

Be safe always, be good when you can.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Results Never Become Outdated

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Since I published my book Corps Strength I’ve gotten lots of great feedback. Hundreds of emails, book reviews and lots of comments to my monthly articles here on SSD. Most of it has been positive and I’ve heard many motivating success stories from those using my ideas that helped them get in shape and lose weight. However, at times I’ve been criticized by some for having outdated, low tech ideas, etc, etc. It’s no biggie, everyone has a right to their opinion, myself included. I will say in response to those specific type of comments, that I and those I’ve trained, continue to be living proof to what really works for achieving and maintaining a high level of useful long term fitness and overall health. People who know me, know I’m interested in actual results much more than than talk and theory, so I’ll share a recent experience as one simple proof source for you to consider.


During this past month of Sept, I was deployed to Africa to train some of their military. Myself and an active duty Navy Chief from the International School house here in Pensacola made the long trip to the small island nation of Comoros in the Indian ocean. We held class everyday for two weeks at their Army HQ, located in the capital city of Moroni. Our class was made up of 21 officers from their Army, Coast Guard and Gendarmerie. The subjects ranged from setting up training programs, to the Laws of Armed Conflict, Rules of Engagement and Use of Force. The classes went well despite the having to work through French translators. We had many good discussions on Peacekeeping and Anti-Piracy operations as many of the students had previously deployed to different parts of Africa with the African Union and the UN in support of various operations. I also had the chance to observe some of their enlisted training and was surprised their PT program to be much more robust than I had seen in other African countries. Especially in the rapid response units that they have in their Army and Gendarmerie. Civil unrest is always an issue there and they have the coup history to prove it.


Now before I deployed there I had heard of their active volcano: Mt Karthala, which measures just under 8000 ft in elevation. I had it in my mind to climb this mtn on a day off during my stay. I mentioned this to the Army Major who was our liaison there and he said that the army used this mtn for training all the time, with units doing force marches at least once a month up to the summit. He said that he would provide a couple of soldiers to accompany us on the climb, as parts of the carter were unstable and dangerous and you need to know the areas to avoid. So we scheduled to meet up with these guys at 0430 at a trailhead on the outskirts of the city. You have to start very early, as you needed to hike through the jungle canopy before sun up, as it is very hot and humid at the lower elevations. I say we, as I had talked my training partner; the Navy Chief into going with me. He was hesitant as he has very little experience with this type of stuff, but he was in excellent overall physical condition and in his early 30’s and I didn’t think he would have too much trouble. Not too much, LOL.

So at zero dark thirty that Saturday morning our driver takes us to a very remote part of the city to meet up with the army guys. They were there dressed in old school woodland type cammies, standard leather boots and carrying (lightly filled) ALICE packs. Chief and I carried only about 25lbs each in day packs, which was mostly water as there is no where to get water once you leave the city. The round trip was to take 10-12 hours and I know better than to go light on water. Our guides were a Sgt and two Cpls. They all looked in their 20’s. They had the rough edged look of infantry guys used to the field. They spoke no English, and after they gave us a quick and dismissive once over, we all geared up and stepped off. The GPS on Chiefs phone said that we were starting at around 1100 ft elevation. The point and last guy each carried dull flashlights, aimed at our feet as it was pitch black under the tree canopy and you couldn’t see shit. The trail was very steep, rocky and root covered. But it was dry and well used, so we fell into a fast clip without too much stumbling around. As I started my military life as a Marine Infantryman I knew five minutes in what was up. All training humps, especially climbing humps always end up being a test of manhood. Back in the day we always wanted to hump the old guys dicks into the dirt (more often that not they did it to us) and I could tell this was how this was going to go. No biggie, not my first bus ride people, step it out boys and don’t worry about this old Jarhead.


After about two solid hours we stopped briefly for a water break. We were all sweating like run away slaves as it was very hot and humid in the trees. Chief was struggling to keep up, and I could tell he wasn’t enjoying this, but I assured him that when we got higher it would cool off and I also had a hunch that these guys wouldn’t be able to maintain this pace. Just a hunch. After a few words of French between them and a sideways glance at me, a different guy took up point and stepped off at an even faster pace. I stayed glued to his ass for the next hour or so without a pause till the sun was full up and we were out of the canopy at about 4000 ft. When we broke into the open, the view was spectacular and you could see Chief and the other two army guys about 1/2 mile below. My guide decided this was a good time to take a real break and have some food and let everyone catch up. The fare was french bread, sardines, bananas, chocolate and warm water. You won’t find a bag of trail mix, power bar or bottle of Gatorade in the entire country. After everyone had some food and a little break, we geared back up. We were about 1/2 way to the summit and It was now open country, but still very steep in spots, with lots of sharp edged broken lava rocks from the last serious eruption in 2005.

Even though it was now very sunny, with the elevation and a nice breeze, the temp had cooled off to the low 70’s and getting cooler as you went up. Perfect for this type of humping. As I was feeling good and loosened up now, I thought that it would be the perfect time for me to take the lead. Two of the army guys went with me, but one stayed back with Chief (his knee was bothering him). I wanted to see what kind of shape these guys were in, so now I just put my head down and as my old squad leader would say “got after it.” I dropped the first guy in less than an 1/2 hour, the second guy stayed with me for about another hour before he just sat down on a rock, shook his head and waved me off. Not tired in the least I pushed on by myself to the edge of the crater (which is marked by a elevation marker at 7740 ft.) There I had a great view of the inside crater and of my companions far below struggling their way up the trail. It took me just under five hours to get to the top and they all caught up in about another hour. After about exploring the crater (like being on the moon) for a while we headed down at a leisurely pace. In all we went over 22 miles in just under 10 hours. The Army guys collapsed at the bottom and sat down in the shade till the truck came and got them. Chief said he was never hiking another mountain as long as he lived, LOL. To me it was the highlight of the trip, but that’s just this old, outdated, low tech Marines idea of fun.


The fact was that other than some sore feet I wasn’t really tired. Yes I know hard ass, we weren’t carrying shit for a load. Adding a 50lb plus pack with a weapon makes this little hike a whole different animal, been there, know this. However I still think that being able to do these type of things at age 55, anytime, any day without any trouble says something about my fitness and what I do to maintain it. I don’t spend hours and hours a day working out. I don’t eat special foods or take supplements. I follow the same plan and diet I outline in my book as I know it works, and works really well and has for years. It may not be high tech, or follow the latest fitness fad, but guess what? It stills works and for me, that is what counts.

Be safe always, good when you can.

Semper Fi