MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Feet stomp the ground like thunderclaps as a blur of green runs by an American flag. Nearby, a staff noncommissioned officer calls out times as Marines finish running their physical fitness test. Off in the distance, a deep voice sings a cadence count as he leads his squad in calisthenics.
These are the sights and sounds of weekday morning physical training sessions conducted on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s Julian C. Smith Road, also known as “River Road” due to it bordering the waters of Farnell Bay. Closed to unauthorized vehicles from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m., Mondays through Fridays, River Road has become one of the most popular PT areas for Camp Lejeune’s Marines and sailors.
“The road closure is designed to provide a safe training environment for the units and individuals along River Road,” said Ron Sarmento, deputy safety manager, Department of Public Safety, MCB Camp Lejeune.
• Road guards block morning traffic flow on River Road from Cross Street to O Street. Only safety and emergency vehicles, as well as vehicles driving directly to their workspaces are allowed on this portion of the road during this time. Drivers who fail to follow the road guards’ instructions are reported and may face punitive charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
• Platoon-sized groups and individuals who run beyond the boundaries of the road guards must not run on the roads. Marine Corps Base order P5560.2M states joggers must be six feet off the road. Sarmento recommended these smaller-sized units and individuals use the running paths that are parallel to River Road as a safe alternative.
• Open fields along River Road and areas by the 2nd Marine Regiment and 8th Marine Regiment obstacle courses are also authorized for PT.
• Although many people enjoy listening to music while they PT, headphones are only authorized on designated running paths.
• Whether on the road, running paths or open fields, Marines and sailors are required to wear reflective belts if they PT before morning colors, after evening colors and during periods of limited visibility, such as inclement weather. PT attire for unit PT is determined by the respective unit commanders, while individuals may wear a green shirt with green shorts or appropriate civilian attire.
Gunnery Sgt. Michael Burgess, company gunnery sergeant with Company I, Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCB Camp Lejeune, said having a designated PT area is beneficial for the Marines’ training purposes.
“Physical fitness is an important part of the Marine Corps,” said Burgess. “While they are running a PFT, Marines shouldn’t have to worry about dodging vehicles. You need the rules in place to give the Marines safety.”
Sgt. Josh Chenault, Cpl. Michael Vanacker and Cpl. Kody Torok, squad leaders and riflemen with second platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, PT their Marines on a daily basis. Whether they lead their Marines in runs with their modular tactical vests or hikes with a full combat load often weighing more than 100 pounds, Chenault, squad leader for first squad, said conducting PT on River Road added another dimension to their training sessions.
“Having that spot (on River Road) gives us another place to go to and allows us to change up our PT,” said Chenault, who has deployed to Iraq twice. “The better physical shape (we) are in, the better (we) are mentally in combat and will ultimately be more efficient at our jobs.”
Torok, squad leader for third squad, said it is good to have a safe area on base where the Marines could fully concentrate on their mission – combat readiness.
“Just being infantry, like we are, you have got to be tough,” said Torok, who recently returned from supporting combat operations in Afghanistan. “(It is easy) to make mistakes based on how tired (you) are, not on what (you) are supposed to do. We train every day so we are ready to accomplish the mission.”
Although there are several places to PT around base, Julian C. Smith has become one of the most popular and safest routes for Marines and sailors defending America’s freedom.