MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., Sept. 7, 2016 — Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Amanda Jenks says she’s just a “normal Marine” who tries to better herself and take opportunity of advantages when they are presented.
Jenks is a cyber systems chief with Marine Forces Cyber Command. She is posted at Fort Meade, Maryland, but represented MCB Quantico — the nearest Marine Corps installation — at the championships. Under the rules, each installation could send one male and one female to participate in the challenge.
She beat out eight other female Marines to represent Quantico and competed against 16 females at the championships.
“The females there were so motivating,” Jenks said. “There’s not a large percentage of us in the Marine Corps, and of those, not a lot of us for whom [physical training] is part of our lifestyle. For us all to be there together was so motivating.”
“I hope I can motivate more girls to get out there and compete,” she added.
HITT Builds Strong Marines
The goal of HITT is to enhance operational fitness levels and optimize combat readiness for Marines. It focuses on flexibility and agility as well as strength and stamina.
The Ultimate Tactical Athlete championship involved six events held over four days. The challenges were kept secret ahead of the event so that competitors wouldn’t know for sure what to expect.
The first event was a HITT combine challenge, which included a prone 25-yard dash, a cone drill, a kneeling power ball throw and a standing broad jump. The following day, the competitors faced a 500-yard power shuttle in the morning and a 500-yard battle skills challenge in the afternoon.
On Day 3, the Marines took part in an amphibious tactical challenge in the morning and a maneuver under fire course in the afternoon.
“We were shot at by paintballs,” Jenks said of the course.
On the final day, competitors tackled MCAS Miramar’s obstacle course, but with some “additional things” tacked on, Jenks said.
She said the hardest day for her was the second day, which focused on strength events. “There were girls there who do weight lifting and really excel at that, and I don’t do as much of that,” Jenks said, adding that she kept telling herself “you have to keep going.”
“I just kept thinking, ‘I’m representing Quantico. I can’t just quit because I’m here and it’s hard. There’s no other option but to keep going,’” she said.
Teamwork Leads to Fitness Success
Jenks, the mother of two young children, said her journey to improved physical fitness started after the birth of her second child, who’s now 2 years old. After her maternity leave, she found it hard to get motivated for her usual runs, so she enlisted the help of two fellow Marines.
“They were more than supportive and eager to assist with helping me get back into shape, even if it meant slowing them down at first,” she said. “It was truly the Marines to my left and to my right that got me to the physical fitness level I am at today. All I had to do was show up, genuinely put forth effort, and work out.”
They started working out during lunch three times a week and then Jenks decided to train for her Marine Corps Martial Arts Program Black Belt two days a week.
Eventually, this led to what Jenks calls a “bucket-list situation” in which she is trying to complete as many challenges as possible. She and her workout team finished color runs, Savage Races and Tough Mudders. Now that the Ultimate Tactical Athlete Championship is over, she’ll turn her attention to the next challenge: finishing the Marine Corps Marathon this October.
“I think my fitness and nutrition plans work so well for me because they are so simple,” Jenks said. “Really, anyone can do it. It’s just small choices. I just try to make a conscious effort every day to do the little things here and there to better myself so that eventually they become second nature and just part of my everyday life.”
By Adele Uphaus-Conner