FORT DEVENS, Mass. --
The transformation from civilian to Marine begins long before a young man or woman steps on to the famous yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.
For approximately 500 young men and women from New Hampshire, Maine and Eastern Massachusetts their exposure to the Corps began with Recruiting Station Portsmouth’s annual field meet, May 20 - 21 at Fort Devens, Mass.
Recruiting Station Portsmouth pulled no punches in preparing these new Marine applicants for recruit training.
These young applicants from throughout New England, known among Marines as poolees, arrived via bus with their heads down, just like they will when they arrive at recruit training, and were welcomed by two drill instructors from Parris Island to replicate the experience of arriving on the island.
“Because there are real drill instructors here and we came in on the bus and stepped on the yellow footprints it helped,” said Robert Foley, 17, from Norwood, Mass.
The following 24 hours would consist of various training exercises to include an initial strength test, static displays, knowledge tests, marching and eight field meet events.
“I loved having the drill instructors here,” said Vincent Villani, 18, from Peabody, Mass. “They showed us how to work as a team. I am really excited to go (to recruit training).”
As the sun came down, poolees could be seen setting up their two-person tents to sleep in overnight. Once the tents were ready to go the poolees ate dinner in the form of Meals, Ready-to-Eat, the prepackaged, dehydrated meals served to Marines in combat.
Just like in boot camp, the poolees were awake and moving by 4:45 a.m. Day two of the field meet consisted of rotating through various stations, such as static displays of weapons and a drill instructor-lead marching station.
“My favorite part was learning about the weapons and especially the M-249 squad automatic weapon.” Foley said.
The poolees learned how to pivot left and right while marching and how to cover and align to the right – all drill movements that would be essential during their training at Parris Island. Once the young men and women had rotated through all of the stations, the field meet events were launched.
The field meet included events like a pull-up challenge, a tug-of-war, an ammo can and water jug relay race, a “dizzy izzy” race and a caterpillar walk, to name a few.
When the competition was complete and scores were tallied, the poolees from Recruiting Substation Brockton, Mass., had the best combined scores and walked away as the winners.
The young men and women who participated in the field meet joined the Marine Corps for various reasons from all walks of life. This introduction to recruit training strengthened their resolve and provided them with tools which will assist them in graduating from recruit training.
“It was fun; a great experience and especially staying all night, “said Mohammad Wali, 17, from RSS Manchester, N.H. “I can’t picture myself doing anything else. I want to do this the rest of my life.”