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Around The Fleet

Hawaii CPO Selects Take On Kaneohe's FMF Challenge

Course designed to encourage camaraderie and teamwork

"Are you a lifter or are you a leaner?" bellowed Command Master Chief Christopher Aldis, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, as he stared down eager chief petty officer (CPO) selects.

As the selects, first class petty officers that have been selected for promotion to CPO but have not yet actually been promoted, pondered whether they were "lifters," a take-charge leader that can impact the Navy and the mess, or "leaners," unreliable and only looking out for oneself. Aldis knew he'd know the answer by the end of the day.

As the early-morning sun rose above Marine Corps Base Hawaii, spilling light into the hidden crevices of the Koolau Mountains it was awakening the excitement and eagerness among the chief selects and chief petty officers to participate in the 14th Annual Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Challenge in Kaneohe, Hawaii.

"The FMF Challenge started 14 years ago as a way to show what Sailors training with the Marine Corps experience," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Lorenzo Branch, a coordinator of the FMF Challenge. "Corpsmen stationed here have passed along the heritage of hosting and creating this event. We take a lot of pride in what we do and we want the selectees to feel proud of themselves after the experience."

This challenge is designed to build camaraderie and teamwork among the chief selects and to help integrate them into the Chiefs Mess, admiringly referred to as the Goat Locker.

The challenge is based on the physical fitness and tactical proficiency FMF Corpsmen must have to embed with Marine platoons.

"This is an island-wide event," said Branch. "Other commands have different events but the FMF Challenge is specific to Kaneohe Bay. The course is designed as a teambuilding experience; one of the primary focuses is for the selectees to learn how to work through problems."

An average of 220 Sailors who are stationed in Hawaii are tested on the course each year. Competitions include an obstacle course, an endurance course, a tug-of-war, and a memory portion. Eleven teams competed this year with the ultimate goal of conquering the obstacles in the shortest time, relying on strategy and trust in their teammates to finish as a group.
Navy Photo

Chief petty officer selects participate in a team-building event during the Fleet Marine Force Challenge on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Dunford.

"Teamwork is imperative to the completion of the course, enabling individuals to come together as a unit," said Command Master Chief William Reed, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2. "Everyone has weaknesses and strengths, and just like the obstacle course, you have to make it over obstacles in your job and obstacles in your life. The selectees have to be able to recognize their weaknesses and then capitalize on everyone's strengths so everyone finishes together."

"You test yourself while providing support to your teammates at the same time," said Chief (select) Legalman Erica Keels, Defense Service Office Pacific. "Before today, we discussed each other's strengths and weaknesses and made a plan on how we would compensate or who would be better for certain events."

"I think this helped bond us together," said Chief (select) Intelligence Specialist Ryan George, a member of the Navy Information Operations Command/U.S. Pacific Command winning team. "It feels good to win, but more importantly, it was a good opportunity to get out here and meet other chiefs from different commands. It was less about competition and more about networking and working together and having fun. I didn't want to let my teammates down and that helped with staying strong and doing well."

As the challenge courses came to a close and lunch was served, chief selects carried their CPO charge books and sat with chiefs to receive written entries and words of wisdom. With each animated story, little by little, the inclusion of the chief select into the Chiefs Mess developed.

"Events like these challenges build a sense of camaraderie, unity, and teamwork that nothing else we do in the Navy has done," said Chief Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) Matthew Meadows, U.S. Pacific Fleet's 2014 Sailor of the Year, who was meritoriously promoted to E-7 in May. "The true idea of leadership is not sitting behind a desk and listening to someone speak. Leadership, in my opinion, is going out on the deck plates, or field, in this case, and helping each other over obstacles like you would in real life. The FMF Challenge is unlike any other leadership course I've seen in my career."

For the final event of the day, the tug-of-war, chief selects showcased friendly competitive teamwork, pulling the line to enthusiastic and rhythmic shouts of "heave...heave...heave."

Although there could only be one winner, there were no losers, and in fact, there weren't any leaners. Lifters, every last one.