This truism is uncontested in the Corps and true in much of life. It’s all about preparation. While in the Marines I was an expert trainer of infantrymen and Marines of all specialties. I have taught at several schools and been a student at many more. I was fortunate to be selected for and graduate from the Marine Corps’ prestigious School of Advanced Warfighting, where field grade officers learn war planning skills at the operational level. The Army calls graduates of this school “Jedi Knights”, for our ability to see an operation through and solve complex problems. I even served as the plans and exercise officer of 1st Marine Division for a stint. So, you’d think I would be prepared for the Great Divide Route (“GDR”), right?
Yesterday was my first day out with my brand-new kit. It was my first day out on a bike in nearly two years! I was intent on riding 100 miles. I had to prove to myself I could do it and I wanted to get a good shakedown ride on my gear. The first 25 miles passed easily, with a smile on my face as I rode north along the cost, having departed from my home in Carlsbad. At mile 45 my vision began to blur, and I started getting the shakes; maybe time to eat something? Miles 60 through 101 were a slug fest. I had to earn the last 40… it took me 11 hours in the saddle to compete the 100.
While grinding through each pedal stroke I was instantly transported to the days of Marine training. My body was screaming quit, my mind was trying to sell me on the idea of quitting, the only thing missing was the drill instructor. A Marine gets through boot camp having learned how to suffer and thrive. He begins to enjoy the pain, in almost a sadistic way. The more suffering a group endures, the tighter the team becomes. At some point, they bond as a squad and platoon and nothing can defeat them. They resist the drill instructors attempts to demoralize them. They laugh in the face of suffering and danger. I get it- I’m only riding a bike. But the mental game remains unchanged. I know I can fight through the internal and external friction. The fog of war will descend on me over the next month, making the easy things difficult and the hard things near impossible. I will continue to patrol forward. I will continue to suffer because those who I am riding for have suffered far more greatly.
I offer no excuses, my failure to train is solely my responsibility. I will pay for it. I need to suffer for it. Maybe through the suffering I can finally get back home.
Along the way I met many kind and supportive folks, including a Marine Vietnam veteran. He stopped to give me his challenge coin (a military tradition and showing or respect) for the Marine Corps League in Las Vegas, NV. I rode from Carlsbad north through Camp Pendleton, where I stopped to pay respects to the fallen Marines from 1st LAR who were killed in Desert Storm in 1991. War remains unchanged. I turned around in Laguna Niguel and headed back home. Many lessons learned- to be chronicled later.