A sense of tradition is not an unusual concept for a United States Marine, but rather is understood as an integral part of the Marine Corps’ history. Knowing this, it is easy to see why Marines with 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, seek to relive a challenge presented to the Marine Corps little over a century ago; the 50 mile hike, at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 1-4, 2017.
The challenge was originally presented to the Corps by President Theodore Roosevelt, who issued Executive Order 989 on 9 December in 1908. The order read that “Line officers of the Marine Corps in the grade of captain or lieutenant will be required to walk fifty miles, this distance to be divided into three days, actual marching time, including rests, twenty hours.”
Since the original order, the complete 50 mile hike has only been challenged and completed twice since its inception and this time the event was hosted by the 2nd MarDiv in which around 500 Marines with the division volunteered to take part in the challenge. The last time that the division hosted the hike (under more mandatory provisions) was in 1963, when John F. Kennedy, was presented the idea by one of his generals.
On the morning of the hike, Marines of all ranks listened to the 2nd Marine Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. John K. Love as he spoke of the history of the hike and why the 2nd Marine Division has once again chosen to be a part of it.
“The purpose of conducting this hike is to honor the legacy of leadership expected by America of its Marines,” said Love. “This month being (the 2nd MarDiv’s) birthday month, it is a great opportunity to foster esprit de corps within the 2nd Marine Division and honor the heritage of those Marines and sailors that came before us.”
While hiking 50 miles within a span of 3 days may seem a feat beyond typical training standards, Love understands that the challenge itself is quite simply the embodiment of what it means to be a Marine.
“One of the baseline requirements of every Marine is to be physically strong and mentally tough,” said Love. “That strength and toughness doesn’t just apply during working hours. Many of these Marines and our sailor brethren will be hiking in their off-duty hours before the sun comes up and after it sets. We never stop being Marines because our nation depends on us to be ready to respond to a crisis or fight our country’s battles at a moment’s notice.”
Like many Marines in the division, LCpl. Lawrence Reagan, a participant of the hike, finished his first 10 mile portion in the morning and by lunch was ready to complete another 10 miles after providing some care to his weary feet. Raegan says the hike “isn’t bad after you get going for a little bit. You get to hike trails which make it nice to get out and spend time in fresh air.”
When asked why he signed up for the hike, Reagan said, “(The) last time the 2nd MarDiv did it, it was only for officers and I kind of did it just because enlisted Marines now had the option, which I thought was pretty cool. Hiking together with Marines of all ranks kind of just brings us back together as a single unit.”
Overall, the division had a great turnout to the event, with still more people signing up for the test of determination in the next couple days.
The 2nd Marine Division has put boots on the ground all over the world; and those boots striking the ground in rugged determination are the very essence of the division as a whole. The 2nd MarDiv, being the only Marine Corps division to complete all 50 miles in both 1963 and now in 2017, have set a precedent and continue to prove why their motto is “Follow Me.”