MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Driving down the two-lane road, getting closer to the final destination, the children’s hearts beat faster with the thoughts of the unknown lying ahead of them. Pulling in front of a building in the middle of the day, a 5 foot 6 inch body of stacked muscle with a campaign cover nestled on top of a high and tight haircut charges onto the bus and tells the children to get on the yellow footprints.
A group of 33 children exited the bus and stood at the position of attention in front of the receiving center at Parris Island, S.C., to begin their “mini-boot camp” experience July 19-22. These children are from the Young Marines of Albany and for many this is the first experience to witness first hand what Marine Corps recruits go through to earn the title “Marine.”
“Every year we try to set up a trip to Parris Island for the new incoming Young Marines, and the newest class graduated in May,” said Master Sgt. Nathaniel Lowman, Young Marines of Albany commanding officer. “We want to give them an idea of what recruit training is like and to go through various obstacles.”
Upon arriving to the recruit depot, the Young Marines received their five-second phone call home to tell their parents they had made it there and were okay. Shortly afterward, the new recruits checked into their new home with Golf Company, Second Recruit Training Battalion. Then the fun began and training started.
“After we arrived to the barracks and started bringing all our gear into the squad bay, the Young Marines sat down in their platoon and didn’t know what to expect next,” Lowman said. “Then the two drill instructors came out of the drill instructor hut and you could tell they were scared,” he said with a light-hearted laugh.
Shortly after the male and female drill instructor gave their introductions and short speeches, they quickly began to teach the new recruits how to make a “rack” or bed with two sheets and a blanket in a matter of seconds. The goal was to help the recruits learn how to work together when under pressure.
When all the racks were finally made, the recruits and their five chaperones went on a tour of the Parris Island Museum to learn about the history on the installation, Marine Corps and the making of male and female Marines aboard the installation.
“We wanted to give the children a sense of history about where the Marine Corps helped
train their recruits and to look at all the different uniforms that were worn during different time periods,” Lowman said. “We teach the children about Marine Corps history in their handbooks, but to actually come and see it is better then hearing about it.”
After eating their first meal in the Second Battalion dining facility, the new recruits went back to the squad bay to have group time followed by getting ready to “hit the rack.” Right before the recruits fell asleep, the sound of “Taps” could be heard in the distance.
“One of the most memorable experiences was hearing ‘Taps’ before we hit the rack,”
said Pfc. Eli Jackson, Young Marine of Albany. “Listening to those three notes reached into my heart and inspired a patriotic feeling I can hardly describe.”
Over the next couple of days reveille was sounded at 5 a.m. and physical training was commenced every day to get the new recruits used to the physical strength needed to get through recruit training.
On the second day of training, the recruits had a chance to run through the obstacle course at Fourth Recruit Training Battalion and to observe a night fire exercise at the Hue City Rifle Range.
“It was great to see all the rounds firing at night,” Jackson said. “All the colors looked pretty cool and the sounds made it feel like you were actually in the jungle getting shot at.”
On the third day of recruit training, the Young Marines got a chance to rappel off the wall of the 100-foot rappel tower under the watchful eye of the instructors.
“My favorite part of the trip was the rappel tower,” said Lance Cpl. Neashada Jones, Young Marine of Albany. “I had never gone rappelling before and I really want to do it again.”
After the Young Marines were finished at the rappel tower, they had a chance to observe an emblem ceremony for the newest Marine Corps recruits getting ready to graduate from boot camp the next day.
Sitting in a dark room with a large screen turned on with the background of a city, the Young Marines got a chance to shoot a different variety of weapons in the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer.
“The Young Marines got a chance to see what shooting the M-16A2 rifle was like,” Lowman said. “The ISMT instructors also did some simulation training with them where the screen played a real-life scenario and the Young Marines had to use their judgment on when to shoot or not and the computer took their scores.”
The last day of their stay on Parris Island was ended with a group photo and observing a Marine Corps boot camp graduation in their own Young Marines uniforms.
After watching the ceremony the Young Marines loaded all of their belongings onto the bus to head back down the two-lane road out of the recruit depot Parris Island to head back to Albany.
“I think the trip was a great success,” Lowman said. “The children got a chance to experience what we went through to become Marines and I think they have a new found respect for the military in general.”