Training is an important part of maintaining and improving warrior skills and rucking is one of the fundamental ways to increase overall strength and stamina. Every now and then you get an amazing opportunity to train in a unique way… like following in the footsteps of the warriors who fought for and defended Iwo To during the battle for Iwo Jima.

On 27 March I was afford the incredible opportunity to travel to Iwo To, the site of the massive battle of Iwo Jima during the war in the Pacific.

Access to the island is highly restricted and is typically only available to military personnel conducting real world missions, or who have been selected to travel as part of a Professional Military Education trip.  I was one of the lucky few who were able to travel and explore the island as part of my professional development.

Mt. Suribachi from the center of the island on 27 March 2019
USMC 35mm gun emplacement

We fley on a C-130J model from Yokota Air Base to Iwo To.  The flight was a little over 2 hours and brought back a lot of fond memories from my days in aircraft maintenance. Once we arrived at the island we set off for Mt. Suribachi, the site where John Rosenthal took this famous picture.

Joe Rosenthal’s famous photo of the second flag raising on Iwo Jima
The Reunion of Honor Memorial

The hike took us along the invasion beach and past the Reunion of Honor Memorial

On the way to the memorial at the top of Mt. Suribachi we stopped at the invasion beach.  This is the first time I really got a sense for just how difficult this landing must have been.  These beaches are young volcanic sand with a texture more like fine gravel then what we would normally think of as sand.  Even when it is wet it does not compress together which meant the sand would fall away from you with every step. It felt more like walking through heavy, wet snow.  The angle of the dunes and the beach also made the going rough. Steep inclines on the beaches would just fall out from under you as you tried to climb forcing you to slide back half a step for every step you took.

USMC initial landing photos on the volcanic sand beaches of Iwo Jima.
The Landing beaches of Iwo Jima 27 March 2019

After the beach we climbed Mt Suribachi.  The assent was somber. After walking the beach it was not hard to imagine just how exhausted the landing forces must have been when they set out to take this vital piece of high ground.  The view from the top of the mountain was impressive, almost a complete 360 degree ocean view. It must have been crushing to watch the US Navy mass it’s fight power around the island this vantage point.

View of the landing beaches from Mt. Suribachi 27 March 2019
USMC Memorial, Mt Suribachi

On the hike back we went along a route that took us through the center of the island which gave us chance to find some very unique hardened fight positions like this one which was made from encasing the frame of an aircraft in rocks and concrete.

Bunker made from aircraft, Iwo Jima 2019
Wing in a bunker, Iwo Jima 2019

One of the last stops was at the Japanese memorial shrine which had a powerful view of the island and framed Mt. Suribachi in the distance.

The final stop was one of the cave complexes that had been dug out as part of the islands defenses.  It is hard to describe the feeling inside these caves, especially if you have never been deep underground in absolute silence and darkness.  There is no real way to do the feeling justice with any picture, but I’m going to include them so I can remember it one day when I look back through this post.

Flash photo to get some of the details in the absolute darkness of the Iwo Jima Caves
A little light went a long way as a friend walked up from one of the deeper parts of the cave.
Cave floors

In total the hike was about 13 miles.  I was lucky and got some good advice about lining my wool boot socks with injinji toe socks as an extra layer of protection for my feet so I walked away with zero blisters but a lot of striking and powerful memories.

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