On July 24, 1944, the 4th Marine Division made the first and only shore-to-shore amphibious assault on the beaches of Tinian during WWII. The campaign for Tinian was a crucial part of Operation Forager, a mission to capture the Mariana Islands from the Japanese and to liberate Guam. The U.S. coveted the island of Tinian because it was perfectly suited for long bomber runways. During the operation, the U.S. pounded the island for two months with naval gunfire, long-range artillery, and aircraft bombings. The assault landed two Marine divisions, 4th and 6th, on two beaches that the Japanese thought were impossible to land on. The Marines accomplished a nearly impossible mission and secured the island in eight days, suffering minimal casualties in what is considered one of the best executed amphibious operation of the war. The U.S. bomber runways established on Tiniain are where the atomic bombs were loaded and launched from that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan and ultimately ended the War in the Pacific.The island today is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
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Major Ann Bernard’s philosophy on improving pull-ups is simple: training hard means training smart, focused and with intensity.
With the Marine Corps transitioning pull-ups into the female physical fitness test repertoire, the exercise is more in the spotlight than ever. According to ALMAR 046/12, as of January 1, 2013, female Marines have the option to perform pull-ups in place of the flexed-arm hang on their annual PFT. After January 1, 2014, female Marines will be required to perform pull-ups on the PFT.
Headquarters Marine Corps released a recommended training plan for females to properly prepare for the change, consisting of six exercises in the initial and advanced workout programs.
“It’s a good initial plan to get started and was properly developed, taking overall upper-body strength development into consideration,” said Bernard, a competitive bodybuilder and the G-6 officer in charge for Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve. “I don’t recommend Marines focus on the number of repetitions for each exercise, but that Marines instead focus on proper form and max effort. Don’t rush through to get 12-15 reps or jerk weights around to get 12-15 reps.”
Safety and form of the training should be paramount to finishing the set, Bernard said.
“Heavier weights or more reps DO NOT equal harder training,” she said. “Training hard means utilizing proper form, executing each exercise with focus and intensity and exhausting the muscle group you are training. You will be sore, but you won’t be hurting yourself when you train hard. However, if you train stupid trying to look hard – odds are good you’ll hurt yourself.”
It’s not just a matter of females starting or improving their pull-up count either, said Bernard. The spotlight on pull-ups should be a reason for all Marines to improve themselves and increase how many pull-ups they can do, even if they are already doing 20. There is no reason why someone can’t be doing 25-30 pull-ups or more. Improving pull-ups is about what should be an intrinsic desire to strive for personal improvement and personal bests.
Bernard says that not being able to do any pull-ups right now does not mean a Marine doesn’t need to be on a pull-up training program.
“The program is about developing greater upper body strength,” she said. “There are plenty of diversified ways to increase the strength in the back, shoulders, chest and arms without having to initially use the pull-up bar. But you can also use pull-up assist machines or the rubber bands to help you out. We all have to start somewhere – zero is as good a number as any.”
Just because a Marine is on a training program right now, doesn’t mean they’ll be able to do 20, or even eight, by next week, warned Bernard.
“When training consistently and correctly it will take at least two to three weeks to start seeing a solid improvement in strength,” she said. “Marines who are consistent with their training and train properly will see results, Marines who are sporadic and don’t train right will never see real results.”
Marine Forces Reserve is currently developing a pull-up improvement program that will challenge Marines in order to improve its collective standard force-wide.
MARFORRES is comprised of the Force Headquarters Group, 4th Marine Division, 4th Marine Logistics Group and 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, whose headquarters are located aboard Marine Corps Support Facility – New Orleans, and operates 181 Reserve sites across the United States and Puerto Rico.
Cpl. Michael Ito
“The Corps didn’t prepare you to die,” said 87-year-old Frank Matthews, a docent we met at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, who was an 18-year-old private first class when he landed on Iwo Jima with 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.
“Most of the Marines that I knew were around 19-years old and had a chance to really live life.
But the Marine Corps did train us well for battle and we knew that as we approached the sands.”
HOUSTON — The wind-whipped guidon of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division was planted in front of Rachel, Sandra and Jerry Smith at the Ellington Field Reserve Training Center, April 14. They awaited their cue to join the company commander in front of the Marines of Company A.
Rachel, Sandra and Jerry Smith are the wife, mother and father of the late Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith, who served as the platoon sergeant for the company’s 2nd platoon. He was killed in the line of duty during a deployment to Afghanistan in April 2011. Because of his actions, that saved the lives of his Marines, Smith was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with a combat “V” device for valor.
Smith was an integral part of the company, said Maj. Roger M. Wood, Company A commander. Smith was a young staff-non-commissioned officer who was unbelievably professional and would never stop caring about his Marines.
According to the official summary of action for his Bronze Star, his patrol received small arms and mortar fire on the morning of April 6, 2011. After directing his platoon’s fire toward the insurgents, he was notified of an airstrike called in by 2nd Reconnaissance Bn. Marines, who his unit was operating with that day. Noting his Marines’ proximity to the target, and caught in a crossfire, Smith provided suppressing fire so his Marines could safely move to cover when the Hellfire missile impacted and mortally wounded him.
In his opening remarks, Wood made sure to acknowledge Smith would want this ceremony to be a celebratory event, even though it was sure to “scrape some old wounds.”
But his family was strong as they stepped in front of the formation to accept the award in his stead. One by one, Wood came to attention in front of Smith’s wife, then his mother and father. He presented them each with a Bronze Star medal and a hug on behalf of the entire company.
Wood dismissed the company and, despite the shining sun and chirping birds, the Marines were somber as they lined up to exchange handshakes and hugs with the family.
Everyone then retired to the drill hall inside the training center, where Rachel was presented with a shadowbox containing a picture of her husband, his medals and ribbons, and a folded flag.
The Marines and family exchanged stories about Smith, many noting his light-hearted nature that showed through his stern, professional demeanor.
Jerry, his father, told about how he was the kind of son every parent dreams about having.
“He made a difference in our family,” Jerry said. “He was thoughtful, funny, dedicated…a great son and a great friend.”
A medal will never be enough to commemorate Smith, said Wood.
“It’s not enough for any of our fallen brothers and sisters,” he said. “But experiences like today, keeping in contact with the families, becoming part of new families; that’s what we’ll remember.”
The Marines of Company A began to filter out to return to training, but not before offering one more hug or handshake.
“All these Marines are a part of our family now,” said Jerry. “If they were Jeremy’s brothers, that makes them my sons. They will always be a part of us, just as Jeremy will.”
Cpl. Michael Ito