MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 held a field meet of a different kind Friday, where Marines raced original boats they built themselves.
The day started off with a softball tournament where the staff noncommissioned officers won, but the interesting part came when the boat race began.
Each section of the squadron built a boat including separate boats for NCOs, staff NCOs and officers. Each group was challenged to come up with an original design, while keeping multiple rules in mind: every boat had to be manned by at least two Marines and no more than six, the only power the boat could have was U.S. Marine muscle, and the materials used couldn’t be from an actual boat. The last rule provoked many groups to use recycled materials like water jugs and old ammo cans.
For example, the staff NCO boat was made completely from trash and recycled items found on the air station. Next year it will be a requirement to only use recycled items announced Lt. Col. Trey Meadows, the commanding officer of HMH-366.
There were three phases of the boat competition. First the boats were judged on aesthetics. The staff NCO’s boat came in first since it looked like an actual boat, was painted in crimson and gold with vinyl seats and had chevrons along the sides from staff sergeant to sergeant major.
The second class of judging was ingenuity. Maintenance control came in first with a combination of PVC pipes and a wooden plank making a raft-like boat, finished off with a blue hammerhead painted on top.
A timed race was the final leg of the competition where each team had to prove its vessel’s seaworthiness by journeying about 200 yards out and back in Slocum Creek while trying for the best time. Each section went in one at a time and paddled as fast as they could out and around an anchored boat.
A safety kayak was right behind each boat as it went out to make sure if it capsized the Marines could be pulled from the water.
Two boats didn’t make it all the way, flipping over and submerging passengers into the brackish water. Though the two boats were disqualified, the Marines stayed motivated and helped each other pull the boats out of the water.
The staff NCO boat came in first at 2 minutes and 4 seconds with the flight line boat coming only 30 seconds behind and taking second place for the race. After the points were added up there was a tie between the top two teams.
For a tiebreaker, both boats raced against each other at the same time. The staff NCO boat broke ahead after the turnaround point but was sabotaged by two flight line Marines who swam out and tipped it over.
The final call was made my Sgt. Maj. Timothy King, who was in favor of the flight line crew. Technically they could have up to six members on the boat team, and with the two swimmers they didn’t exceed their limit, so flight line won overall, explained King, the official referee for the event.
“Today was a great way to build camaraderie and blow off some steam after a hard fiscal year of work that my Marines did,” said Meadows.
After the final race all the boats went back in the water and Marines jumped in to join them. Boats were capsized by mobs of Marines and “pirated,” all in good fun. Even the commanding officer jumped in and joined the excitement.
“My favorite part of the day was the final boat race with everybody in the water,” said Meadows. “It showed that they had some team spirit, but also some Marine spirit.”