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Squad Up; MCSB hosts Super Squad competition, chili cook-off to build camaraderie, esprit de corps

Soundoff! Laurel — Maddie Ecker Soundoff! Laurel, Md.

April 19--Wearing a Marine green shirt with the word "Voluntold" on the back, Maj. Anna Voyne of the Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion strapped on her 30-pound backpack before moving to the next challenge with members of her Super Squad team.

Voyne was one of 36 Marines who participated in the battalion's daylong Super Squad event on April 12. Participants had to complete 10 physical challenges that included burpees, crunches, suicide sprints and a casualty carry at various locations around the installation.

The challenge began at noon with an obstacle course. Marines jumped over suspended logs, scaled a wall and climbed a rope.

"I'm looking forward to the O-course," Lance Cpl. Julia DiBartolo said. "I love it."

This was DiBartolo's first time completing a Super Squad challenge, but she had high expectations for herself.

"I'm going to kill it," she said. "I'm going to have a fun time."

Green Side Training

Before tackling the physical obstacles, each team had to complete a KIMS game that required the Marines to observe a number of objects and memorize them. After completing the final physical challenge, they had to recall the items.

"It's how we prepare our Marines for numerous events," said Capt. John Lindberg, the event coordinator. "No matter how fatigued they get, they have recognition of what they remembered at the time, and it just works that mental endurance part."

While the Super Squad challenge is physically and mentally demanding, Lindberg said events like this help bring the battalion and their families together.

"We try to bring in as many people as possible to really get that family feel and that's what the battalion command is all about-- the esprit de corps, the camaraderie," he said. "Marines always like to do hard things, so starting off with a real physically demanding, physically challenging event [so] that we can actually cheer for the Marines [that] culminates with a family event. It's a great day."

For the MCSB, the Super Squad is a way to get their "green side" training in.

"It's always good to have these culminating events where the Marines get to feel that essence of what [being] a Marine is," Lindberg said. "The last thing you want is to have these Marines up here for three years and lose what we call the green color, that flavor, that feel.

"The enthusiasm, generally, for these events is huge."

Lance Cpl. Bryson Walker was ready to compete in the physically demanding event.

"I've always been in love with physical fitness and whenever something like this comes around ... it's kind of exciting," he said. "Having a team and being responsible for the person left and right of you, making sure they get through the obstacles -- it's a good feeling to take that leadership and implement those skills in this event."

Both DiBartolo and Walker said that while this type of event can be demanding, their physical training schedule ensured they were prepared for the Super Squad.

"It is challenging," Walker said. "That's part of the reason why most of us joined the Marine Corps -- for the challenge. Again, doing something like this is a good opportunity to meet that expectation of [a] challenge."

For Walker, incorporating families into the battalion's events makes sense.

"We have two families," he said. "We have our biological family and then we have our Marine Corps family. Bringing all of that together, it shows how much we support them. They have to withstand [spouse deployments]."

It took most of the teams two hours to complete the Super Squad challenge.

Sgt. Joseph Quinn, Sgt. Brad Plehn, Sgt. Kevin Smith, Sgt. Brandon Zaremba, Cpl. Rayna Houk and Cpl. Chase Robinson came in first place out of the six teams, winning a silver trophy that will be engraved with each of their names.

Cooking For Glory

A chili cook-off followed the Super Squad challenge. A moon bounce and cornhole game were set up for all attendees to enjoy.

Twelve chili dishes were entered into the competition. Everyone received a marble to vote for their favorite chili.

For the past two years, the reigning champion of the chili cook-off has been Master Sgt. Saul Barajas.

"We're hoping he gets unseated this year," said Staff Sgt. Jacob Haulman, the battalion's Family Readiness officer.

Gunnery Sgt. James Terry's chili won the fan favorite vote and the judges' pick.

The purpose of pairing the cook-off with the Super Squad challenge was to bring service members and their families together for one big event.

"Look at all of the Marines sitting with each other, intermingled with people's families," Haulman said. "It just builds camaraderie [and] esprit de corps. It just gets everybody out and gets the families involved."

As the Family Readiness officer, Haulman sends email updates and plans events for the Marines' spouses.

"Some of the spouses I've never seen before," he said. "They've heard of me, they've seen my emails, but I've never met them. So I've been meeting people for the first time. Now, when they get that email every week, there's a face to go with a name.

"So it's just a chance for everybody to get outside of work, socialize, have some fun."

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