Making Monsters in the PT Lab

In the Marine Corps we are immersed in a culture of physical fitness (among other things). I always say when Americans “send in the Marines!” they expect a certain product. This product not only includes a physical prowess defying a number of inviolate laws of physics and medicine but also a neat and professional appearance. It’s a look easier to pull off when your shoulders are wider than your waist. Many regard physical training as a mandatory chore designed to lessen their quality of life just that much more. Some figure it doesn’t pay to attack a hill if half way up you are noisily blowing chow all over your boots and can’t employ the machine gun.  Others have it in mind they will be more able to overcome the enemy if they make themselves bigger, faster, and stronger.

Here’s the real reason we conduct physical training. Ready?

We are, in fact, making ourselves harder to kill. A healthy, well fed, fit human body is more capable of surviving and functioning while immersed in the various diseases, illnesses, infections, etc, one encounters in theater. Not to mention being able to survive combat wounds or just running down the block draped in 100lbs of gear during the balmy desert summer. Bracing!

I was told a story once about an interview of Japanese POWs during WWII. The Japanese Imperial Army had thought they were fairly invincible and their defenses impregnable. They were asked at what point during the campaign they felt they might be in trouble. Turns out while machine gunning Marines down as they landed the Japanese noticed the wounded and dying still trying to advance and crawling forward despite their wounds. The Marines were coming. They were hard men to kill. 

I’m not suggesting a superior PT program won the war in the Pacific but being hard to kill certainly is a force multiplier. In an effort to remain so I often encourage Marines to come workout with their 1stSgt in the afternoon. Workouts with America’s 1stSgt have a reputation not only for being cruel and unusual but quite competitive as is our nature. For their part, Sailors in our vicinity want no part of what we are up to when it involves perspiration and demonic levels of physical pain.

We get paid for this!

In these photos we are gleefully destroying each other in a joy filled PT session. The name of this particular workout changes as it is named after whomever achieves the lowest score and is known as the “       ” Challenge. This is a shame best avoided as it marks the namesake as the weakest member of the tribe. Each of us has 15 minutes to complete as many rounds as we can of:

3 Pull Ups (chest must touch the bar)
6 Chest Slapping Push Ups (hands must slap the chest while in the air)
9 Jumping Squats
The Challenge is the kind of workout which on the surface seems simple enough. Then about one minute and thirty seconds into the workout the victim realizes he has made a grievous mistake and has placed his mortal life in peril. On this occasion the stakes were particularly high as the current namesake openly challenged one of his peers to a head to head competition. Naturally, this brought all the meat eaters and we all part.
Nose to nose clapping push ups with a little encouragement from yours truly. 
As the workout progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to keep proper form. Chests miss the bar here and there and chest slapping push ups degenerate into clapping face plants. Awesome! 
Ugly but acceptable technique.
Although this appears to be the end of the workout, there are actually 10 minutes to go.
Flogging for one? This way sir.
The end of this particular Challenge was inconclusive as it resulted in a tie with 15 rounds completed each. While others spent the day on the couch mashing bags of potato chips into their pie hole, FAST Company forged some ruggedness, tested a little character, and enjoyed the camaraderie. Sounds like a day seized to me.
Semper Fidelis!
America’s 1stSgt
/ / / /


  1. Top, Some “citizens” will never understand, but I think you made it pretty simple.
    When I was a young Army Grunt over 3 decades ago, I could carry an entire 81 MM mortar by myself…the tube, bipod and baseplate— when I was 19 years old.
    When I was a combat engineer, I could carry all the tools and demo kit and my own weapon and gear- by myself.

    then I had to go to war when I was 49 years old. I still out packed the 20 something year olds I had on my teams.
    It’s not just muscle, but the mental attituded that “I am never going to give up until I’m dead!”

    And now that I’m all retired (and looking for a whole new job) I’m still working out.

  2. You two scare me. I whine about my hiking backpack weighing too much because of water bottles…and my gun…and well, …just girl stuff I need.

    ..and uh, little bro…P is still trying to figure out how you tossed him around like a volleyball at the beach. Don’t worry. He’ll recover one day.
    haha. omg

  3. CI Roller, it cracks me up when I see young teenagers who should be in their prime falling out of runs and allowing their perceived pain to limit performance. Funny how the old guys always manage to finish and gut it out. One saying I have picked up over time is: “Has your mind quit? Because you body hasn’t.”

    Wrexie, I am happy to propagate they myth of Marine physical prowess.

  4. As the victim of this PT, I can honestly say it sucks in the beginning, middle, and end. But, in the long run it is fun, I suggest anyone with the equipment to give it a go.

  5. “One saying I have picked up over time is: ‘Has your mind quit? Because you body hasn’t.'”

    Love that. That lesson was taught to me on a bright sunny morning at PISC on TD1 when I decided to walk during the initial fitness test:

    “Are you dying private?”

    “Sir, no sir!”

    “Then you better start running or you will be dying.”

    That was more than three decades ago, but the man’s words still echo in my head. Fear and lack of confidence can be your worst enemies, but if you can defeat them it makes all the others seem like pushovers.

  6. Ok 1st Sgt. I tried this at the Y tonight – 16 rounds. Any other 58 year olds want to take up the challenge? You know, I swear I could hear my Sgt. Instructor from OCS questioning my parentage when I ran out of time..

  7. Ahhh 1st Sgt…brings me back to our pull-up routine in Level 4 PPE with SCBR’s on our back making the ARMY students shake their heads and look for padded rooms for us. Even after my 9 surgeries, (2 spine, 4 hip ((including double replacements)), 2 shoulder, and 1 femur) I felt it necessary to partake in a 5k for charity a few weeks ago. We are gluttons for pain and pride.

  8. I asked myself this same question, “Who was that stud in the white ringer with those silkies on? Damn!” LOL HOT!!! ;0)I want to meet him!!

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