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Old 01-20-2008, 01:39 AM
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Tough Enough to be a Marine?

So you think you're tough enough to be a leatherneck?
Find out the answer Saturday at the Marine Buddy Challenge

RICH HAAG
rhaag@charlotteobserver.com

Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve will resound on Saturday morning with the barks of current and former Marines. They'll be shouting drill-sergeant style at mostly civilian athletes taking part in the Marine Buddy Challenge.

Members of the organizing group hope that many people -- you, for instance -- will join them to encourage the athletes and donate to the event's cause, a scholarship for former Marines. There should be plenty of action for spectators.

Pairs of athletes will go through a scaled-down version of the Marine Physical Fitness Test that Marines must complete twice a year.

Here is one small sample: Kneel and lift a backpack weighing about 20 pounds over your head as fast as you can 50 times while your buddy does the same thing. Get a shouting Marine in your face if either of you makes a mistake. Then both of you do it again until you do it right.

If Marines can work it out, spectators also should be able to view a video taken just a few hours earlier in Iraq of 400 Marines competing in a twin event on a base 70 miles west of Baghdad.
You might know some of the people taking part in the Buddy Challenge, including Highland Creek residents Eric Reiner and Gene Davis.

You also might know the organizers.

Retired Marine Aaron Harper of Back Creek heads up the Reedy Creek Park event, which is being staged by the Marine Corps Coordinating Council of Greater Charlotte.

Maj. Ed Moen of Harrisburg is coordinating the Iraq event. He is commanding officer for Maintenance Company, part of the 4th Maintenance Battalion stationed at Camp Al-Taqaddum, Iraq. The Maintenance Company of about 150 Marine Reservists is headquartered in Charlotte.

You may wonder why people would volunteer to do something like this.

Davis, 35, and Bank of America co-worker Rob Russell were looking for a way to stay fit and have fun. They learned about the Buddy Challenge at a triathlon Web site.

"The first thing was, `Hey, we found something, and look what it is for, and hey, we want to do that,' " Davis said. "We both support our troops very much."

Reiner, also 35, got an e-mail about the Buddy Challenge from fellow cycling and triathlon enthusiast Ryan Kerfien, asking if he'd be interested.

"I said yeah," Reiner said. "I'm a former Marine myself, and I was more than willing to see what they were going to do."

Both teams have been running to get ready and hope to do some of the exercises before Saturday's event. Reiner is not too worried about the final run with a weighted pack (10 percent of the athlete's weight, or about 20 pounds for Reiner).

"I ran with a pack in the Marines that weighed more than 70 pounds," he said. "I was in mortar. I always carried the barrel. That was 35 pounds. My rifle was 8 pounds. Then there was whatever we had in the pack."

Marines in Iraq also have been advised to train for the event, Moen said by telephone from Iraq, but few have.

"It's not difficult stuff, running with boots and a pack, once you've done it several times," he said.

Many of the Marines actually see this as a break, he added. They work 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Every day is like a Monday out here," said Moen, who has been in Iraq with his group for five months. "To be honest, they are always looking for something different than just working on rebuilding vehicles or engines."

What would make it challenging to the Marines?

"There might be snow," Moen said with a laugh. Amazingly, the base and Baghdad got their first snow in more than 80 years on Jan. 11.

Harper promises that neither event will be deterred by bad weather. This is the Marine Buddy Challenge, after all.

Want to help or compete?
The Marine Buddy Challenge will begin with check-in at 7:30 a.m. at Reedy Creek Park, 2900 Rocky River Road, one mile east of East W.T. Harris Boulevard. Events start at 8:30 a.m. Teams can register up until Friday for $25 per person. Additional sponsorships also are encouraged.To learn more about the Buddy Challenge, to see examples of each test and to register, visit www.marinebuddychallenge.com. Nonparticipants can help by sponsoring athletes for $25 per participant either here or in Iraq. Sponsors will learn the name of their athlete and how she or he did in the event. Details are on the Web site.

Visit new biodiversity center, too
Reedy Creek Nature Center will have the grand opening 10 a.m. Saturday of its new Center for BioDiversity Studies.
The center houses 42,000 preserved plants and about 8,000 preserved animals, donated last year to Mecklenburg County by UNC Charlotte. The county spent $400,000 to build a facility that can safely house this unique collection of Carolinas flora and fauna. Some specimens date back to 1872.

Visitors will be able to tour the center after the ceremony.
Reedy Creek Nature Center is in Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve, 2900 Rocky River Road about a mile east of East W.T. Harris Boulevard. Take the main park road until it ends at a T intersection. Turn right. The center is at the end of the road.
For details, call 704-598-8857.

http://www.charlotte.com/274/story/454688.html
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