Ona, W.Va. --
Some may think of enlisting in the Marine Corps as an easy process involving a quick trip to the local recruiting station, signing a few papers and then a short time later taking a trip to Marine Corps Recruit Depots San Diego or Parris Island.
However, the paperwork at the recruiting station is only a formality in the process toward becoming a Marine.
After an individual enlists in the Marine Corps they enter what is known as the Delayed Entry Program or ‘pool program.’ They are then called poolees, or individuals who are waiting to attend basic training. A poolee can remain in the pool up to eight months, depending on what job field for which they have signed.
“The pool program is a seat at the table,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Rogers, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Recruiting Sub-Station Huntington and a Trafford, Pa. native. “It’s a program designed to take an individual who has enlisted in the Marine Corps and put them in a structured environment that gives them weekly and monthly contact with their recruiters to prepare them for basic training.”
The pool program involves weekly and monthly activities designed to ensure success at basic training. The activities range from weekly physical training and individual mentorship sessions with their recruiters to close-order drill practice. All of these activities are used to reduce the attrition, or basic training failure rate, of poolees who reach recruit training.
As the Marine Corps downsizes, the number of poolees that can be sent to basic training each month has shrunk, leading to a stronger focus on quality over quantity when it comes to recruiting. This has led to a larger focus on attrition as money, time and effort are wasted when an individual does not complete basic training. A successful pool program is often seen as the best method to combat attrition rates.
“You have more time to get (poolees) ready. Our attrition rate has dropped roughly 18 percent over the last couple years,” said Rogers. “From fiscal year 12 to FY13 our attrition rate dropped eight percent.”
One individual who benefitted from the program is Recruit Elbert Pope, a native of Taylorville, W.Va., who left for recruit training in October after spending five months in the pool program. Upon first entering the pool program, Pope found himself struggling to complete the Initial Strength Test, which is used to gauge if a poolee is physically fit enough to attend basic training. After spending months working with his recruiter, Pope found himself ready.
"I feel like I am a lot more prepared for boot camp. I improved by working every day, no days off,” said Pope. “I can now do a lot of things I didn’t know I could do and I can push myself a lot further than I ever could.”