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The Young Marines is designed to strengthen the lives of America's youth by teaching the importance of self-confidence, academic achievement, honoring veterans, good citizenship, community service and living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. The Albany unit’s leadership is not well positioned to bring in the training elements, uniform basics and values and traditions of the Marine Corps on their own, so those from Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany who wear the real Marine uniform are stepping in. (Courtesy Photo)

Photo by Jennifer Parks

Albany Young Marines offer mutual benefit to youth, active-duty community

1 Mar 2024 | Jennifer Parks Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

A program geared toward the development of southwest Georgia’s youth is near and dear to the active-duty servicemembers of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, so much so that active-duty Marines at the installation have been instrumental in keeping it alive.

The Albany Young Marines is part of a national award-winning program for boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 18. The Young Marines is designed to strengthen the lives of America's youth by teaching the importance of self-confidence, academic achievement, honoring veterans, good citizenship, community service and living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

“We instill the value of teamwork and discipline, like other youth organizations,” Eric Crump, the unit’s commander, said. “What sets us apart is that it is Marine Corps based.

“We are building the character and using it in everyday life and teaching them to be a good citizen.”  

The Albany unit’s leadership is not well positioned to bring in the training elements, uniform basics and values and traditions of the Marine Corps on their own. That’s where the those wearing the real Marine uniform step in.

Gunnery Sgt. Jenny Lauzier, chief, Satellite Support Center, MCLB Albany, is among those Marines. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native graduated from high school in Rio Rico, Arizona and has been in the Corps nearly 15 years.

She has been helping the Albany Young Marines for a year, coming on board not long after arriving to her current duty station. She was one of 20 Marines from MCLB Albany to volunteer with the organization in 2023.

“I love the Marine Corps, I love being outside,” Lauzier said. “I love giving back to the community.”

Lauzier helps Crump teach classes to the Young Marines. These classes include education on land navigation, first aid, rank promotion, among others.

“Whatever he needs help with, I help him,” she said. “This is us teaching the younger generation to be a Marine, and to accomplish more than themselves.

“We could be training future Marines.”

The unit meets at the Albany Area YMCA, an organization with a retired Marine colonel serving as its president and CEO. Crump said he is seeing the program’s alumni begin to bring their own into the fold. While MCLB Albany resources are used by the unit, basing its drill meetings outside the base’s fence line makes it more accessible to the community.

It operates with the support from others in the community outside of MCLB and Albany Area YMCA. Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, American Legion, law enforcement and Albany area businesses have also played a key role in keeping Young Marines alive, Crump said.

“This program is bigger than the kids,” he said. “That’s why it works in Albany as a partnership.

“This bond is a game-changer. From the Marine base we have volunteers who make it so much easier to do the program.”

The unit’s commander is of a different generation than his Young Marines. Having active duty servicemembers closer to them in age makes it more relatable to them.

Their presence also empowers the young girls in the program.

“The female Marines make a big impact on girls in the program,” Crump said.

Crump has been the unit commander for three years. He first got involved with the Young Marines as a father volunteering with the unit. Then two Marines revived the program and left for new duty stations.

“They asked me if I’d be willing to pick it up,” he said. “It’s a good program. It is making a difference for youth in our community. We’ve had 51 kids in three years, and it is impacting all the families attached to it, and their schools and organizations.

“I see a big impact. There is a sense of pride in them going in the right direction.”

The Young Marines promote the mental, moral and physical development of its members. The program focuses on character building and leadership and promotes a lifestyle conducive to being productive members of society.

“The highlight is watching recruits when they start, graduate and become Young Marines,” Lauzier said. “We watch them check in and grow through the program.”

They grow much like their adult counterparts do.

“There are recruit phases, classes, graduation, getting the uniform and starting to get promoted,” the gunnery sergeant said. “It’s similar to what actual Marines do, but its tailored toward children. They do physical training and learn what it means to belong. It gives them structure, in a way.”

It does more than grow the program’s youth. It also builds up the strong bond between MCLB Albany and the southwest Georgia community.

“The Young Marines here are out there giving back to the community with what we have taught them,” Lauzier said. “We are all circled together. It is a cohesive bond inside the fence line, but outside as well.”

She has even seen a difference in herself that may be of benefit when she transitions back to civilian life.

“It has challenged my leadership side. I am learning to work through different personalities,” the gunnery sergeant said. “I am like their role model.

“I look forward to taking this to my next duty station and being a part of the Young Marines there. I like who they are and what they stand for.”

While having an impact on the next generation of Marines, she values the opportunity to give back to the external community that has long supported MCLB Albany. This brings personal meaning for her.

“I can give back to the community,” she said. “I can also give back to the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps has done so much for the community and the community has done so much for the Marine Corps.”

The only Young Marines membership requirement is that recruits be in good standing at school. Since the Young Marines' humble beginnings in 1959 with one unit and handful of boys, the organization has grown respectively, with youth of both genders in units throughout the country and overseas.

Crump has seen youth advance in rank and participate in regional and national leadership school events and even going into the Armed Forces. They, and his own children who have participated, have reached a point of development in which they crave responsibility.

“They are going from a twice-a-month program to leading as responsible young citizen that will likely transition into something else,” he said. “Our families are doing community service on their own; that is pretty exciting to see.

“They get promoted (in the program), and there is opportunity to learn more. The promotion boards are largely equivalent to a job interview.”

Crump has gone from two youth to an average of six to 15 new entries in a season. There were 15 who started during this winter term.

“We are in the top 10% in terms of size in the nation,” the unit commander said.

Youngsters undergo a 26-hour orientation program upon joining a Young Marine unit. Orientation is generally spread out over several weekly meetings, serving as recruit training. The recruits learn general subjects such as history, customs and courtesies, close order drill, physical fitness and military rank structure.

After graduating from recruit training, the youth have the opportunity to learn even more new skills, earn rank, wear the Young Marine uniform and work toward ribbon awards. Young Marines earn ribbons for achievement in areas such as leadership, community service, swimming, academic excellence, first aid and drug resistance education.

It is not simply the volunteer efforts of the MCLB Albany Marines Crump depends on to keep the unit running.

“We can only grow through volunteers,” he said. “We need parents and families who are ready to stand up. It is great to have the Marines; they are the experts and I know the children will be instructed properly.

“It is hard to do what we do without them.”

As the unit evolves, Crump expects to continue to build upon the support he already has. The Marines and other volunteers can keep supporting the training activities while he focuses on the strategic aspects.

“We are looking at more creative ways to do what we need to do,” he said. “We are trying to help the program be taken up a notch.”

The Young Marines’ national roots date back to 1959 in Waterbury, Connecticut when several Marine veterans formed an organization for boys mirroring the Corps. It has since grown to serve both boys and girls in 238 units. The nearest Young Marine unit outside of Albany is in Warner Robins, Georgia.

The Albany unit drills twice a month at the YMCA. For more information on this unit, contact Crump at (512) 966-9324. Additional information about the organization can be found at

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