RECON Challenge 2015


There are challenges in life. And then there is the RECON Challenge. The 7th annual version of this marathon event was just held at the United States Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. Combining swimming, shooting, and a whole lot of hiking, the RECON Challenge is a one-day training competition not for the faint of heart, physically or mentally.

The grueling event is hosted by the Camp Pendleton Commanding Officer and the Instructor Staff of the Reconnaissance Training Company, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, and School of Infantry (WEST). Its starting point was San Onofre Beach in San Clemente, California. It finished at SOI.

2015 RECON Challenge

22 two-man teams of Reconnaissance and SARC Corpsman participated. It is open to all officers and enlisted who are graduates of the Basic Reconnaissance Course (BRC) and the Amphibious Reconnaissance School (ARS) who are active and reserve status. This also includes those from sister services and foreign competitors who have graduated from the BRC or ARS.


They began the competition at 4:00 a.m. with an open water swim with full combat equipment. Competitors strapped on 60+pound rucksacks and jumped into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean. This was not just any spot, but right by the world famous Trestles surfing destination. Thus, you have 8-foot swells to battle in making it 1,000 meters out to a buoy and another 1,000 meters back to shore.

From tough to tougher.

The RECON Challenge then takes the competitors through a series of events on an obstacle course spanning 25.9 miles. It’s not just the distance for hiking and running with 60+pound rucksacks and a rifle which is a challenge. The terrain is the rugged “Alpha Shelf” mountain region of MCB Camp Pendleton.


Here’s more of the “fun” events for competitors in the RECON Challenge:

Observation and memorization contest.

Map work and navigation test.

Radio and communication test.

Fireman’s Carry test.

Knot-tying test.

Live firing range.


  • “The Tiring Tire.” How would you and a partner like to take on a massive tire? Swim 100 meters. Flip the tire into the pool. Push the tire to the deep end of the pool. Sink the tire to the bottom of the 15-foot pool. Swim to the bottom of the pool, and somehow manage to get the tire back to the surface. Then, lift the tire, now full of water, out of the pool.
  • “Weapons of Mass Assembly.” How would you and a partner like to do a marathon which features the dis-assembly and re-assembly of a 1911, M4, a myriad of machine guns and many other weapons?

Master Gunnery Sgt. Christopher May sums it up perfectly. “It comes down to knowing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing how to exploit them when you need, and just keep pushing forward,” he said.

The winning team of Master Sgt. David Jarvis and Capt. Patrick Zuber from 1st Reconnaissance Battalion won the 2015 RECON Challenge in a stunning time of 8 hours and 35 minutes. Their margin of victory was 49 minutes.

The event benefits the Marine Reconnaissance Foundation which supports the morale and welfare of those in the RECON community. Each team dedicated their participation in honor of a RECON Marine or sailor killed in action. Thus, keeping alive the brotherhood of the RECON Marines.

AWC Inc. Sponsors 2015 RECON Challenge


Photo: (Jon ZumMallen – left, U.S. Marine High Shooter for event – center, Bryce Stirlen – right).

Jon ZumMallen is the Vice-President of Manufacturing, and Research and Development at AWC Inc. Jon spent roughly six years as a RECON Marine and Scout Sniper. He served 2 tours of duty in Iraq, another in Afghanistan, and served at Camp Pendleton as an Instructor at the Pre-Scout Sniper Course.

Jon and AWC Inc. CEO Bryce Stirlen were proud to award two Build a Rifle kits to the high shooter teams of the 2015 RECON Challenge competition. “For me, being in one of the more aggressive units like RECON, there is a real sense of brotherhood, but when you get out you lose it,” says Jon ZumMallen. “When you do things like this and donate, it gives you a chance to help out and be back with people you know and taught and who taught you. So, it’s good to give back and get back with the RECON community.”