French, US Service Members Compete in Tin Cat
5TH COMBINED OVERSEAS MARINES BATTALION, Djibouti - French and U.S. service members participated in the Tin Cat challenge, a physical competition that is unique to French Forces in Djibouti, at the French 5th Combined Overseas Marines Battalion, Djibouti, Oct. 30.
The name Tin Cat refers to a French saying where one achieves a high combination of strength and fitness, according to French Marine Major Thomas Pieau, 5th Combined Overseas Marines Battalion operations officer. "In one of our commando training centers, there is a little picture of a soldier dressed looking like a cat with big muscles, thin muscles, and the saying 'be like the cat - be thin, because if you are not thin, you cannot succeed in this kind of exercise.'"
The competition required participants to complete, in order: 50 pull-ups, six 20-foot rope climbs without using their legs, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, a 400-meter run with a 66-pound rucksack and a 135-pound bench press 10 times - all in less than 35 minutes.
According to Pieau, the Tin Cat challenge has been going on here for five years and was probably created by "a crazy guy with big arms and a little brain."
Competitors who finish the Tin Cat spend months training in preparation for the 35-minute competition, said French Marine Captain Damien Mireval, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa French Forces liaison officer.
"The months before the Tin Cat challenge, they challenge themselves on the PT [physical training] field and in the gym," said Mireval. "They do their own training to be ready."
Despite the training, only 59 percent of the 43 competitors - 30 French and 13 Americans from Camp Lemonnier -completed the competition. American forces have competed in the Tin Cat since its inception five years ago.
"We know that you Americans, just like us, you like physical training, you like physical power and you like competition," said Pieau. "So as soon as we organize a competition, we like to invite you."
"It is very important to us to have your participation because it is part of our friendship," he added.
The Tin Cat challenge is just one of several events that bring FFDJ and American forces together. The French are currently hosting a 10-day desert survival training course involving French, Djiboutian and American service members. Next month they are hosting the Grand Bara 15k, a 15-kilometer race through the Grand Bara desert.