About 400 U.S. and South Korean Marines took a break from honing their winter-warfare skills Tuesday for some friendly competition in the city that will host the upcoming Winter Olympics.
After doffing their shirts and yelling half-naked in the snow, the allies teamed up to battle each other in chicken fights, relay races and a free-for-all wrestling match.
It was a bit of levity to wrap up a tense year on the Korean Peninsula that saw more than 20 North Korean ballistic-missile tests, two underground nuclear blasts and an ongoing bitter war of words between Washington and Pyongyang.
But Tuesday’s event wasn’t all fun and games. The Marines also used the time to show off some of the skills they’ve been practicing over the past 20 days in the harsh mountainous area. Snipers popped targets from snowy perches and skiers barreled James Bond-like down the slopes with guns in hand.
More choreographed than tactical, the troops performed for a horde of media, which at times seemed to outnumber the North Carolina-based Marines and their Korean counterparts during this annual photo op.
“An environment like this is unforgiving,” said Capt. Thomas Rigby, 33, of Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. The company commander from Red Bank, N.J., said his Marines used the harsh locale to focus on cold-weather squad tactics and decision-making skills.
Rigby said historic fights like the Korean War’s Battle of Chosin Reservoir, in which Marines fought off and escaped a massive Chinese assault in 1950, have cemented the service’s can-do, go-anywhere attitude.
“We’re a jack of all trades,” he said. “We fancy ourselves to be able to fight in any clime and place.”
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