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Face of Defense: Sailors Prepare to Tackle Mount Fuji for Charity

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brock A. Taylor
Special to American Forces Press Service

YOKOSUKA, Japan, Aug. 14, 2008 – An officer assigned to Submarine Group 7 is preparing for a special charity event -- scaling Mount Fuji four times in 24 hours on Sept. 1.

Navy Lt. Doug Szwarc, a native of Pittsburgh, will lead three other enthusiasts in an attempt to ascend and descend Japan's most famous landmark multiple times.

The three other climbers are Lt. Robert Lovern, also of Submarine Group 7; Chief Petty Officer Michael Raney. of Fleet Public Affairs Center Detachment Japan; and Luke Nelson, a civilian who works for the Morale, Welfare and Recreation sports department.

Szwarc said the event is dubbed "Fuji for Charity," and its goal is to raise $10,000 for a local orphanage and for the South Carolina-based Guardian Ad Litem project.

"We're not doing this to build up our egos. If anything, it's going to deflate them," Szwarc said.

Last year, Szwarc scaled the mountain three times in 24 hours with his friend Lt. Jeff De Groot. The personal quest soon turned into a fundraising event.

"It was kind of an afterthought. Jeff and I thought, 'Hey it would be cool to climb Fuji three times,' and we thought while making these plans we might as well do it for charity. It makes a lot of sense," Szwarc said.

Szwarc and De Groot accomplished the three climbs with 22 minutes to spare. Szwarc said that even though it may sound like they were pushing the envelope, they took their time. After carefully planning out this year's climb, Szwarc said, he is confident of the group's success.

This year, with a little more planning and organization, Szwarc said, he increased the donation goal to $10,000.

"[Last year] we got up to like $500, then we were thinking, ‘Hey we can get up to $1,000.’ … [We] blew right past $1,000, and it kind of grew exponentially without us really doing anything. That's why we thought this year $10,000 was obtainable."

Szwarc said didn't want to give up trying again this year even though De Groot transferred. He decided to recruit a new teammate, which soon turned into an extra three.

Lovern, an avid climber; Raney, a seasoned marathoner; and Nelson, an accomplished triathlete, said they look forward to the endurance challenge, but they acknowledged the main focus is helping others.

"I've been in Japan for a couple of tours now. I've climbed Mount Fuji a few times, and I've raced up it a couple of times. I was looking for a new, miserable experience, and this fits the bill," Raney said. "I'm sure we're going to be challenged both physically and mentally. It's definitely going to be a test of our endurance. But, this event isn't about us or Mount Fuji; it's about the kids."

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brock A. Taylor serves at the Fleet Public Affairs Center Detachment Japan.)

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