CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan --
In the dark of the night, just before the sun rose, a group of men gathered, preparing for a day none of them would ever forget. In those early predawn hours, a subtle tension could be felt as the group jumped into Camp Hansen’s 50-meter pool, starting their exhaustive day with a 500-meter timed swim.
Marines with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, were evaluated during the reconnaissance physical assessment test Oct. 25 at Camp Hansen, an assessment normally reserved for reconnaissance Marines and sailors designed to assure adherence to the high physical standards necessary to complete their assigned missions.
“The RPAT takes the standards from all the various schools the Marines are required to go through and puts them into one event,” said Lt. Col. Eric N. Thompson, the commanding officer of 3rd Recon. Bn., 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The RPAT consists of a 500-meter timed swim, a max-effort set of Air Force-standard pushups, Army-standard situps, Marine Corps pullups and a 1.5-mile boots-and-utilities run. The assessment’s culminating event is a 12-mile, 50-pound rucksack run followed immediately by two back-to-back completions of the obstacle course.
“Over the last ten years, the war has shown that any Marine could be in a combat scenario at any time,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy Froio, the 3rd Recon. Bn. training chief. “By running the RPAT, these (Headquarters and Service) Marines are demonstrating that they are adhering to our high standards of physical training and proving they can handle a combat patrol.”
Signs of fatigue started to show as the Marines finished the 1.5-mile boots-and-utilities run exhausted and out of breath.
Moments later, Marines consumed nutrient-rich gels, protein bars and juices to replenish the energy lost and prepare for the next four hours of the assessment.
The reinvigorated Marines donned 50-pound rucksacks, and departed for the next segment of the RPAT; a 12-mile rucksack run which must be completed in three hours or less in order to pass.
“It really started to hurt during the ruck,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Goez, a field radio operator with the company. “I realized during the ruck that there was no way to complete this without feeling pain. You just need to forget about the pain and push through.”
It takes a lot out of the body to move a 50-pound rucksack with a weapon at a 4 mph pace, according to Thompson.
“The rucksack march is what really separates the men from the boys,” Thompson said. “It is by far the hardest event.”
Reconnaissance Marines are expected to pass this assessment every year. A reconnaissance Marine that fails to pass is expected to participate in every assessment until they successfully complete the entire assessment.
No other event in the Marine Corps is as physically demanding as the RPAT, according to Thompson. This is an all-or-nothing assessment; there are no partials.