David vs. Goliath: The Military Battle Challenge

/ Shawn Stasko


Just north of San Diego, you’ll find a 33.35 sq. km territory home to some of our nation’s most courageous men and women. The largest Marine Base in America, Camp Pendleton is where many of our Marines live, train, and prepare to fight for our freedom. We spent four days on base for the Military Battle Challenge – a military-style obstacle course.

Throughout the week of competition, participants had full access to all three flavors of Sword at the start/finish line. Because of the intense physical demands and the heat and humidity, Sword went faster than we could fill the coolers.

The Military Battle Challenge has two mirror obstacle courses stretched down either side of 30 foot central runway. Athletes begin with a 12 foot cargo net climb onto a wooden platform; followed by a 20 foot knotted rope descent. Then, they’re confronted with a 7 foot wall, this requires incredible upper body strength and jumping ability to surmount on the first try. Past the wall, athletes take two trips to carry four 18.75 pound ammo cans up and over a stair obstacle. Upon completion, athletes move through a low crawl tunnel 3 feet in diameter into a punishing 40 pound Jerry can shuttle.

Athletes use a custom laser-equipped rifle to shoot a target back on the rope climb from a standing or kneeling position through a window. Once they strike the target twice, they traverse the window to their second laser rifle task in a prone firing position. After two successful strikes, they drag a 175 pound dummy 30 feet back to the starting line.

Of the hundreds of soldiers to compete at Camp Pendleton, only a handful finished in under 2 minutes.  

What did it take to finish under time? One might guess the biggest soldier with most battle experience is a shoo-in. But that just didn't happen. So who was? The soldiers who cracked two minutes were simply more efficient, lighter, and smarter. They carefully analyzed each of the course obstacles. These were the athletes who did not rely on their size, but on their creativity. These were the Sword athletes, and by the end of the 4-day competition, the big guys were taking notes.

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