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02-07-09, 07:35 AM
Marine recruiter visits high school
Dress blues — from the halls of Montezuma…. to the halls of Estes Park

By Juley Harvey
Friday, February 6, 2009

ESTES PARK, Colo. — A few good men — and women — shared lunch with the Marine Corps last week, as they met in the high school library to hear Staff Sgt. Neil Porter extol the Semper Fi tradition of the soldiers of the sea. Tell it to the Marines echoed, as the students asked questions of the recruiter during the “Let’s Do Lunch” session, between 11:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

The Let’s Do Lunch program involves professionals in varied careers who introduce students to their chosen fields at lunch, under the auspices of the Post Graduate Student Success Center. The public is invited. The next scheduled speaker is a firefighter, on Tuesday, Feb 10.

“We do more than kick down doors and shoot people,” the Marine told the group, including a senior scheduled to join the Army.

Porter said the Corps is a “much different service from the others. The Marine Corps has a different mission. We’re on air, land and sea. We take them all. We’re the first in, and the last out. Anytime there’s something going on — Iraq or Afghanistan — we’re the first in.”

There are no non-combatants in the Marine Corps, there’s no medical corps and all Marines carry rifles, he said.

At 200,000 loyal members, the Marines remain the smallest service — and maybe the snappiest, in their dress blues — but arguably the toughest. The Army has 1.5 million soldiers in uniform, and the Navy and Air Force, combined, total about 1 million members, he said.

“We have the highest standards to get in,” he said, but added the retention rate is not so good. “We’re a lot tougher (than the other services),” he said.

The Marines also go deeper into technical job training and allow for development of more job skills that translate into dollars in the civilian world, he said.

The Marines are a department of the Navy, and the Navy covers them medically. According to the Geneva Convention, Porter said, medical personnel are non-combatants.

One of the reasons the Marines are “first in and last out,” Porter said, is “We don’t need Congressional approval to go in, just presidential approval.”

He joked with senior Tyler Rashid, who plans to go to Army Boot Camp May 28, six days after graduation.

“I don’t know if you’re allowed to be here, since you’re going into the Army,” Porter said.

Rashid said a shoulder problem kept him out of the Marines.

“Shoulders are the Marines’ biggest problem. The other services don’t have that as much,” Porter said.

A couple of the students said they had plans to join the service, but not immediately. Will Pietsch is going to college, but may consider military service later, perhaps in the medical corps. Michael McEndaffer, battling an illness, wants to join the Marines when he is recovered.

Porter told them the basic training for the Corps is the “longest, hardest boot camp,” at 13 weeks.

“All you learn is to be a Marine,” Porter said. “There’s no job training (in boot camp).”

After successfully completing boot camp, the recruits go to combat school to learn to use rifles and larger weapons, then on to job training.

Porter said he will be finished with his recruiting assignment in June and he looks forward to deploying again. Recruiters are non-deployable. He has been a Marine for 8 years and 5 months. Stationed in Colorado, he said his wife is “here with me.”

“I see her every day, unless I’m deployed,” he answered a student who asked if he got to go home at night.

Deployments come around every three years and may last from seven to nine months. He figures he’ll probably go to Afghanistan, from Camp Pendleton, on the next rotation.

Asked about women Marines, he said about six percent of the Corps is female — the “lowest of all the services. Most females, when they think of the service, don’t think of (joining the) Marines,” he said.

The misperception of many people is that being a Marine is too hard, because it’s “all combat,” he said.

When a female student agreed, he said, “What, you can’t run a mile-and-a-half and hang on a bar with your arms flexed for 15 seconds? You have 15 minutes to run 1.5 miles. The (difficulty) is all in your head.”

The recruits sign up for 4 to 6 years of service.

“We have no 2-year contracts,” Porter said.

For more technical jobs, such as air traffic controller, the enlistment is 5 years, because the jobs require so much training. The military police program is also 5 years, and includes such training as brig/prison guard and K-9 unit, in addition to regular patrol officer.

Asked about deployments, Porter said Iraq deployments are normally limited to 13 months. Most Marines stay nine months, unless they volunteer to stay longer, he said. Between seven and nine months, Marines receive their next orders.

Asked what he did in Iraq, he said, he served as a landing supply specialist.

That involved getting underneath helicopters and “hooking stuff up,” as well as running airfields.

One of the three males considering military service joked about another, “For the love of God, put him in boot camp.”