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The Quigley - A Marine's Story

January 02, 2015

The following anecdote was written by a United States Marine Officer and is overflowing with leadership principles and spiritual application.

The Quigley

The Quigley is an intimidating 50-yard course in the muddy swamp behind Marine Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia. In 1976, 1st Lt William Quigley, OCS Tactics Officer, was tasked with creating the course to help Marines prepare for Vietnam. Thirty-three years later, they’re still using it to make Marines.

It’s mid-morning in the Quantico jungle. Already the heat seems unbearable; the humidity, palpable. I sprint up the trail in woodland cammies with my M16A4 Service Rifle slung over my back, muzzle down, and my left hand gripping the barrel to keep it from jostling. Despite my best efforts to tighten the chinstrap, my Kevlar helmet now dances all over my head as I struggle up the trail to the edge of the Quigley, combat boots caked in mud. With my rifle butt, I manage to scrape some mud off as I catch my breath, intent on losing a few pounds before I jump in.

“Your turn candidate, move!” the instructor yells in my ear. Holding my rifle overhead, I leap into the muddy water. I remember to bend my knees. Too many Marines have broken their legs over the years. I’m not getting sent home! It’s deeper than I thought. I’m six foot six, and I’m soaked to my chest. I plunge forward, maneuvering into the sidestroke position and start swimming, quickly and quietly. My left hand gropes in front of me as my right hand holds the rifle just above the surface. I do this for about 25 yards. My right arm is dead. I can barely keep my weapon up. Finally, I reach the first barrier. They’re half-submerged telephone poles, four of them, about 6 feet apart, each spanning the length of the swampy channel. Razor wire stretches across the top of each. “Put your rifle on top of the log”, I hear the instructor yell. “Feel under the log for mines or trip wire. Then submerge underwater and up the other side. Do the same thing for all four!” I’m just glad to rest the rifle on the log. I’m almost chuckling as it suddenly strikes me just how miserable all of this is. I take a deep breath and go under. Somehow, I manage to inhale a nose full of mud. I come up sputtering. “Come on candidate” I hear the instructor screaming “This isn’t drinking water! Now move, move!” I snort out enough of that sewage to make a small mud pie and shove off to the next log. I’m more careful this time. I come up on the other side. Two more trips underwater and I make it past the last two logs, rifle still above the surface. I rub my eyelids with my free hand, trying to clear the mud. In front of me, I see a giant cement culvert, at least eight feet long and submerged up to the brim.

“All right college boy” the instructor yells. “You’re going to lie on your back, rifle on your chest. Go underwater, headfirst through the pipe, using your feet to propel you.” I decided not to think about it. Seconds later, I’m on my back, rifle on top of me. I’m excruciatingly aware that my weapon is about to get very muddy. I take a huge breath and plunge under, moving head first through the pipe. My feet kick off the bottom propelling me along. My Kevlar helmet bumps and scrapes against the ceiling. I think I’m almost through. Suddenly my rifle almost gets ripped from my arms! The strap is caught on the bottom. Frantically, I’m groping at the strap trying to free it. It’s a big rock. I pull myself to it. I need air!

Desperately, I yank the strap free and lunge through the last of the pipe to the surface. I breech like a humpback whale and struggle to regain my footing as I gasp for breath. The instructor probably thinks I’m nuts. I don’t care. I made it. I’m through! I swim the rest of the distance to the swamp’s edge with what’s now very likely a clogged rifle, and scramble up the bank. On top, I clean debris from the M16’s muzzle and sling it over my back again muzzle down, left hand on the barrel. I cannot suppress a smile. Praise the Lord, I’ve conquered the Quigley, but this is far from over. I still have half the Combat Course to go. I let out a wild yell and take off down the trail.


Michael LaPierre April 8, 2015 @ 1:18PM
Thanks Kyle for sharing a spiritual leadership story!

Michael LaPierre January 2, 2015 @ 1:39PM

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