While USS Harry S. Truman and its battlegroup transited the Suez Canal, the Marines and Sailors of VMFA-312, took time from their busy workdays to benchpress 3.12 million pounds, one hundred pounds at a time.
With the consent of MWR, the Checkerboards stormed the mezzanine gym in true Marine fashion from 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27, until 9 a.m. the next morning.
The squadron embarked aboard the carrier on Nov. 28, for its maiden deployment.
Cmdr. Donald M. Cramblit, Marine Aircraft Group 31 chaplain from the Marines' home station of Beaufort, S.C., organized the event in the hopes of building camaraderie and giving everyone involved a good workout.
"I thought it would be a great way to motivate the Marines and build squadron unity," said Cramblit. "We weren't competing with anyone but ourselves."
Even though the Marines were not competing with anyone outside their squadron, the competition within was intense. Nothing could better illustrate that than the battle between CWO4 Phillip R. Caulder and MSgt Willie A. Washington who lifted 249,000 pounds and 261,000 pounds, respectively.
"There's no way I was going to let him beat me," said Washington, maintenance administration chief.
The last 100 pounds was lifted by LCpl Nancy Cardenas, from VMFA-312's electric shop, to reach the unofficial goal of three million one hundred twenty thousand pounds.
"It was truly a group effort," said Caulder, personel officer.
Altogether, '312 benchpressed 1,560 tons, which roughly equates to lifting 110 F/A-18C Hornets. More than 160 Marines and Sailors participated in the event, averaging 19,500 pounds per Checkerboard.
Though the numbers may sound impressive, the sense of camaraderie and esprit de corps developed by this event will well serve the Marines and Sailors of VMFA-312 as they prepare to assume their duties in the Persian Gulf.