Meet the Marines Who Keep it Safe on ABC's 'Wipeout'

Today's cuppa: iced green tea with mint (still, still hot in L.A.)

Thumbnail image for Wipeout_Wipeout.jpg
Before contestants are given the opportunity to humiliate themselves attempting to navigate the fiendishly clever obstacles on ABC's reality hit  "Wipeout" -- which returns with a new episode tonight, Wed., Sept. 2 -- those obstacles must be tested.

After all, the goal is to provide spectacular and amusing wipeouts, not cause serious bodily injury or death, which would be no fun for anyone.

But testing the obstacles can be fun -- just ask the female half of the show's "Black and Blue" teams (we'll meet the Black and Blue Boys in a future post).

Megan Stiner (below, left) and Michelle Dickson (right) met at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, where they were working as combat correspondents, taking pictures and writing about Marine training and activities.

Or so they told me -- reciting their assignments pretty much in unison -- when I met them 
Wipeout_BandBGirls2.jpg
during filming of the current season of "Wipeout."

"We get to do all the training," Dickson said, "write about it, do interviews, all that stuff. Then when civilian media would come on the base, we'd be the ones escorting them, letting them see what they could see."

"We did what you do," said Stiner.

But, unlike most journalists -- who tend to be a cranky, independent lot (not too sure about some political journalists right now, but maybe they'll come around) -- Dickson and Stiner, like any good Marines, know how to take orders.

Said Stiner, "They'll say, 'You have to set everything that we're doing in dance.'"

Of course, they comply, but that can be confusing for onlookers.

"The thing is," Dickson said, "we'll be around people who don't hear the walkie-talkie, and we'll have to do everything in dance."

After leaving the Corps, Dickson came to California to do stunt work, then heard about the job at "Wipeout."

"So I jumped on that wagon pretty quickly," she said. "All the females were quitting, so I was the only one still here. So I called my friend Megan..."

"I was in Ohio at the time," Stiner said, "visiting family and stuff. I was planning to move to Colorado and go to college, then I get a phone call from Michelle, saying, 'Why don't you just come to California, go on the show "Wipeout" with me? It'll be fun.'

"So, detour, two weeks later, I'm out here."

Asked if stunt testing is a good second career for former Marines -- because, as any Marine will tell you, there are no "ex-Marines" -- Dickson said, "It's different. You have to not mind kicking ice chunks off the mats before you jump in and test something, and to know that you're going to be freezing and uncomfortable sometimes."

"You get hit by stuff and run into things," Stiner said, "and have stuff thrown at you constantly."

"And just stand on a beam and listen to them," Dickson said, "and they'll be like, 'Just let it hit you. We want to see how far you get tossed, make sure we know whether we have to tone it down or not.' If you're into that very physical, action adventure -- good times."

"It's outdoors all the time," Stiner said, "and it's different. Every day is an adventure, and I love it. I wouldn't trade it for anything right now."

Is the confidence gained from military training a plus in navigating a "Wipeout" course?

Wipeout_wipeout2.jpg
"Gosh, I don't know," Dickson said. "It's so different from any obstacle course that you run in the military, and it's not what you would expect. You look at it, it looks pretty easy."

Stiner said, "You're like, 'I could bounce over the top,' then you get knocked off the first thing.

"You hit the cold water. You don't expect to fall, and then the wind gets knocked out of you, so overconfidence won't help you.

"Confidence will help, but overconfidence will end up killing you in the end."

"It'll help," Dickson said, "because pride -- you won't want to stop. You''ll want to keep going. We've had some ex-Marines..."

"Whoa, whoa," Stiner interjected.

"Sorry," Dickson said. "We've had some Marines on the course, and some do well and some do very poorly."

As to the rest of the contestants, both women admit that they may root for some contestants more than others.

"There are some that are really loudmouth and obnoxious," Dickson said. "You can't help but feel a little evil, but you smile when they hit. Then you get the other ones, like older people or really heavyset people, that just won't give up.

"Those people you really pull for, and then there's the ones that you love to watch eat it."