MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- At the end of four years’ worth of exams, parties and football games lays a crossroads for all high school students. Some choose to further their education. Others begin their journey into the workforce. And then there are those few who decided to take up the challenge and join the Corps. At just 20 years of age, one man has been placed in charge of the lives of more than 30 of his fellow Marines. Only two years out of Hunderton Central Regional High School and already this Flemington, N.J., native, has accomplished more than most of his peers will their entire lives.Lance Cpl. Adam H. Blades, an infantryman with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, led Marines on countless combat missions in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq. In preparation for his next deployment, he led his team of 34 through a helicopter-raid exercise Wednesday at Combat Town, an urban warfare training facility here. Blades is the acting platoon sergeant while the actual one is attending the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy.“Filling a billet usually suited for a Marine three pay grades higher than him is a tremendous opportunity. Blades is mature enough, responsible enough and savvy enough to lead Marines and accomplish whatever the mission may be,” said 1st Lt. Brent L. Jones, the executive officer of Company A.Blades is specifically responsible for leading the support element of the helicopter-raid. Though his Marines aren’t physically kicking in doors and clearing rooms, the assault team’s mission would be impossible without them.“Our main job is to simply support the assault team. With machine-gun covering fire, we can keep the enemy distracted. That way, the enemy has no knowledge of the assault team’s presence until it is too late,” said Blades.The main goal of the training exercises in this two-week package is to prepare Marines for real, wartime situations. It’s easy to survey the scene and make the necessary organizational adjustments while in the rear. Out in the desert, the environment is much more compact and hectic. Muscle memory will save lives, said Blades. “While over in Iraq, I remember the time that myself and other Marines were tasked to search a graveyard for weapons caches. We inserted at 3 a.m. and didn’t get extracted until later that evening just as the sun was going down. The intelligence we received was correct; we found 69 artillery rounds,” Blades said.Getting as close to the real thing as possible, simulated rounds will be used in week two of the training. “Laser tag systems may be effective, but they’re not nearly as realistic. Rather than an ‘Oh well’, it will be more like ‘Ow, I got shot!’. This type of training is especially geared toward the newcomers,” said Blades.As a junior in high school, Blades too faced a decision at the crossroads of life. Once his mind was made up to enlist, there was no looking back. “The Marine Corps has made me a better person. Even when I think I hate life, I just think of my fellow Devil Dogs in Iraq who are putting their lives on the line every day of the week. I remember how good I’ve really got it sitting here in the woods of Camp Lejeune,” said Blades.