MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Smiling teenagers wearing camouflage utilities adorned with a red maple leaf insignia jumped out from a silver van like circus clowns out of a tiny automobile. Due to the near 95-degree heat, many of the kids sweated profusely, clutching bottled water in their hands. However, the teenagers didn’t appear bothered. Instead, they stood mesmerized by the sheer size of the light armored vehicle and M1A1 Abrams main battle tank that stood before them.
These kids are Royal Canadian Army Cadets, and they traveled from Ontario, Canada to visit Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 25, 2011. It’s an annual trip financed primarily through fundraisers. For some of the younger cadets, it’s a new experience, and for others, it’s a repeat.
During the cadets’ three-day stay, they participated in gas chamber training, obstacle courses and computer-simulated weapons training.
“I thoroughly enjoy this,” said Michael T. Saunders, a 16-year-old cadet. “My favorite part was the gas chamber. It was unique.”
Across the lot, stood another group that was touring the base. Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy had also come to see the traditions and capabilities of the Corps. The two groups took turns looking at the LAV and M1A1, as Marines stood ready to answer any and all questions; ranging from serious to silly. One cadet had the gal to ask one of the Marines his age.
“Well, how old do you think I am?” responded the Marine. 25 and 36 were quickly shouted by the crowd of cadets around him. After laughing, the 19-year-old Marine replied, “one year in the Marine Corps is equal to four in the civilian world.”
“This is a little vacation to us,” said Cpl. Zach B. Farina, a light-armored vehicle crewman with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. “Most of them had the same questions, like how far the vehicle can shoot, and how many bullets it can take. It’s a good teaching experience.”
The cadets, whose ages ranged from 13-18, have no contracts with the Canadian military. Whether or not they join the service will be a decision they make after high school.
However, for the midshipmen, it is a different situation. As students of the Naval Academy, they must decide whether they will become a Navy or Marine Corps officer during their third year of school.
Standing tall in front of the midshipman wolf pack, Midshipman 1st Class William M. Blue listened to the Marines with an intensity that was hard not to notice.
During the midshipmens’ five-day stay on base, they received infantry training with Marines from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, such as counter improvised-explosive-device training. Blue stated that working with the infantry was his favorite experience.
“I’m hoping to get infantry,” said Blue.
Farina believes that whether from Canada or the Naval Academy, the tour is beneficial toward making a well-educated decision regarding the military.
“Whatever decision they make will be a better informed decision,” said Farina.