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 However, at times I’ve been criticized by some for having outdated, low tech ideas, etc, etc.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.