MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
A group of teens received a chance to interact with Marines from Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force, aboard Camp Guernsey Army Air Field, Wyo., recently. In between training events, ANGLICO decided to put some time aside to give the teens a combat fitness test after learning the kids had a genuine interest in the Marine Corps.
The teenagers were from the National Guard Youth Challenge Program, an organization that helps 16-18 year-old high school dropouts earn their high school diploma or GED. Fourteen percent of the graduates join the military and 28 percent continue their education.
The program’s headquarters was located within a five-minute walk of where the Marines were staying on base and occasionally some of the kids would walk over to talk to the Marines.
“They would come up to us at the smoke pit and ask us questions, so I proposed the idea, ran it up the chain and it happened,” said Lt. Geoffrey J. Zann, naval gunfire liaison officer, 2nd ANGLICO. “You never know what kind of impact that could have on them later on.”
The combat fitness test starts with a timed 880-yard run, moves into a two minute maximum set of 30-pound ammo-can shoulder presses and finishes with a maneuver under fire course – which includes exercises such as low crawling, a casualty drag, a fireman’s carry and a sprint with an ammo can in each hand.
The intense test is designed to prepare Marines for combat situations, but for the kids it was a chance to experience the physical demands of the Marine Corps and interact with the U.S military. Many of the teens had an interest in joining the service and jumped at the opportunity.
“It’s what I expected, it wasn’t easy, but I did better than I thought I would,” said Coulston S. Spoonhunter, an 18 year-old nephew of a former Marine. “I like this stuff. I like the structure and I want to be a Marine pretty bad. I just need to ask my family.”
When the kids struggled with the intensity of the exercise, Marines encouraged them to push through and finish strong.
“I think for every kid that did the exercise had about four-to-seven Marines encouraging them,” said Zann.
One of the Marines helping conduct the CFT said he thoroughly enjoyed providing the teens the experience.
“I thought it was awesome – they seemed to get a lot out of it. One of the kids told me, ‘Marines are legit,’” said Capt. Jared S. Stokes, power control team leader, 2nd ANGLICO, with a proud smile and chuckle. “I thought that was the coolest thing. A lot of them would move from the encouragement. I saw this little kid that couldn’t have been more than 105 pounds and he was cranking them out. I told him, you got this and he cranked out more of them. We got questions at the end, like how long we had been in and one kid said, ‘there’s Army strong and then there’s you guys.’”
In time, these kids will graduate from the National Guard Youth Challenge program and whichever path they chose, whether military or not, they now know a little more about who Marines are.
“It was a great experience seeing what they get to do,” said Jacinto T. Zavala, who recently enlisted in the Army National guard. “I have a high respect for Marines. I liked that they pushed us with positive motivation.”