Lt. Staci Lynn Reidinger twice ran the Marine Corps Marathon while an enlisted soldier, but Sunday she learned what happens on the other side of the finish line. She was one of about 2,000 Marines around the course making sure the race went smoothly.
"It's a little difficult for me because I would like to be out running, but it's great to be on this end of it," said the 28-year-old Reidinger, now a commissioned officer and an 11-year veteran of the Corps. "To see how much time they spend preparing is amazing. Someone might walk into this thinking anyone can put on a marathon, and that's just not the case."
Reidinger was one of more than 400 Marines working the race from Quantico's The Basic School (TBS), a six-month introductory training program all new Marine Corps officers must complete. Marines from TBS help coordinate the marathon each year, even though they have little experience putting on a marathon.
Capt. Bryan Sprankle trained and led the two TBS companies working the marathon, and said the Marines are well-suited to making sure one of the biggest marathons in the world goes off with few hitches.
"We use the same mechanisms for any type of mission, just like combat missions," Sprankle said. "We need to worry about how we get Marines from point A to point B, how we deploy our troops and supplies, and the Marines get their orders and carry them out. No matter what that task is, whether it's charging up a hill and attacking an enemy position, or handing out medals, you still have to go through the same kind of process."
Reidinger and the 200 members of TBS's Echo Company were in charge of operations at the start and finish lines beginning at 6 a.m. Echo Company comprised the most visible Marines on race day -- they did everything from answering runners' questions before the starting gun to handing out medals and providing medical assistance after the race.
Marines from TBS had to focus on public relations, race management, safety and security -- all pretty much simultaneously. Many of them had to wait hours for something to happen, but once thousands of runners started streaming across the finish line, they quickly adapted and worked as a team.
"It's a mental exercise for them, and we take it very seriously," said Sprankle, who instructed classes on the marathon. "We evaluate our officers based on their performance here."
Many TBS Marines on hand said the Marines work well at the marathon because they take the job of being the public face of the Marines seriously. Each runner was handed a medal by a Marine, such as Lt. Steve Ryan, a 23-year-old from Roundup, Mont.
"This is a great post to have," Ryan said. "We get to see everyone finish and congratulate them after a great accomplishment."
While the Marines didn't volunteer for marathon duty, Echo Company's Lt. David Shanks, working security near the finish line, said it's a rewarding experience for him and for much of the Corps.
"There's a lot of things that make us mad, that give us a bad rap, like how Marines are usually portrayed in the movies," Shanks said. "It's nice to have something like this that shows us what we're really like. Nobody wants to be stereotyped or put in a box, and the Marines are the same way."
And Reidinger said she realizes that the Marines are providing a service to fellow citizens, even if it's not by protecting the country.
"I understand how important it is for us to help take care of the community, and it's not just about taking care of the Marines," Reidinger said. "I'm glad I can help the Marines by doing this."