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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

3280 Russell Road, 2nd Floor Quantico, Va. 22134
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RS Jacksonville 'cowboys up'

By Cpl. Jessica M. Mills | | April 22, 2005

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Donkeys have a strong sense of survival. They evolved in an extremely rugged terrain and can now thrive and succeed in any situation that they encounter.  It’s not stubbornness – it’s Mother Nature – yet they are smart enough to know when they must adapt. 

Recruiters, who bear a resemblance to these loyal steeds, also have a strong sense of survival skills.  They are notorious for routinely going far and beyond the call of duty to make mission, no matter what the challenge.

The recruiters of RSS Jacksonville proved their gumption April 8-9, by participating in the 2nd Annual United States Professional Rodeo at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center in Jacksonville, Fla.

“This is the first time we have ever been involved in a rodeo in the Jacksonville area, but it’s proved to be an excellent way to reach an untapped resource,” said Master Sgt. Alan Morris, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Recruiting Substation Jacksonville.  “Actually participating in the rodeo offers us another way to gain exposure in a market that is not easily accessible and extremely diverse.”

During the two-day evolution more than 78 cowboys and girls pulled up their hitches and competed for the top spots in events like bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team and calf roping, women’s barrel racing, and bull riding.

“This is a Marine event,” said Sam Dunn, the official promoter for the rodeo.  “We wanted to show our respect and thanks to our service members for supporting our country, and the Marines have always been there.”

The opening ceremony began with the Marine Corps colors flying high aboard a majestic white stallion that galloped around the arena, followed by the Army, Navy and National Guard flags.

Marine banners graced the walls and barriers in the pen, and a 20-foot inflatable drill instructor loomed over the informational booth inside the center, drawing handfuls of curious cowboys and girls of all ages to compete in the pull-up challenge.

“I thought I could take these guys on, but they are tougher than they look.” said Alex Vaught, a Jacksonville native and high school senior.  “Its nice to see them come out and get dirty with our cowboys, reminds me that they were once just regular guys like me.”

During the intermission, the recruiters and their NCOIC volunteered to jump in the saddle for the official donkey race, competing for laughs and airtime by racing with their donkey cohorts against Casey Carter, a radio personality on Rooster Country FM 107.3. 

The first rule with donkeys is that you cannot lose your temper or use brute force to accomplish anything with them.  Yet with trust and confidence in their riders, donkeys can bravely go along with their whims, and accomplish great things.

In this case, the Marines had to yield to the donkeys.

Although Marines are tough, many of the donkeys proved to be more stubborn than their riders, bucking them off repeatedly. By the end of the race, the Marines had spent more time running after their charges or landing face-first in the dirt.

The winner of the race, Cpl. David Elbon, a recruiter aid, realized halfway through the race who was boss, and gave the lead to his four-legged friend.  Elbon managed to stay on long enough to finish in the saddle.

Although there was no prize, the Marines managed to win the hearts and applause of the entire arena.

The moral of this story?  Both Marines and donkeys are strong, intelligent workers that don’t run away in terror in tough situations and have a natural inclination to like people.  All this adds up to an animal that is easy to take care of, easy to work with and very easy to give your heart to.

“It has become imperative that we get even more creative and aggressive about spreading awareness about opportunities available in the Marine Corps,” said Morris.  “So far, we are doing extremely well and establishing an effective presence in our community.  If this is what it takes to get exposure and get some contacts, than my Marines are ready to do it.”

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