View Full Version : Lakers meet Miramar Marines

09-27-03, 05:44 AM
Lakers meet Miramar Marines
Submitted by: MCAS Miramar
Story Identification Number: 2003926104458
Story by Sgt A.C. Strong and Sgt. Richard Kulleck

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif.(Sept. 18, 2003) -- It's zero-dark-thirty and four men are preparing for their day. Suiting up for the morning workout, they cram their feet into athletic shoes, drag on their gear and prepare to push their bodies to the limit of endurance and strength and train themselves to be in the best physical condition they can be. Push-ups...pull-ups...sprints... weights...and at the end of the training session, two of these men are done for the day, the other two... are United States Marines.

Two worlds didn't exactly collide Sept 18, when Lakers rookies Brian Cook and Luke Walton visited Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, but both got a good look at what goes on behind the curtain in the other camp.

According to Lakers' Community Relations Director Eugenia Chow, that is exactly what the players were interested in when she contacted Miramar about a visit.

"Brian and Luke wanted to see Marines doing what Marines do," said Chow.

The players started their day at the helicopter simulator, so that they could get an idea of the pilots' job, then they headed over to the flight line and made their way through the helo squadrons meeting Marines and seeing what it's like behind the scenes.

At first, it seemed that the visit to hangar 4 was going to be a flop. Junior Marines stood back and watched as others approached the players. However, the intimidation factor vanished as the Marines and the players realized that the only difference between them was the uniform... and the paycheck ... and some good-natured trash-talking ensued.

"It makes me feel good knowing they look up to me," said Cook, who has been named Third Team All-American by Associated Press and Named Big Ten Player of the Year by conference coaches and media as a senior, "but I look up to them because they are risking their lives for our country."

Among those risking their lives was Staff Sgt. Brian Cox, CH-53 crew chief, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, who was recently named Crew Chief of the Year for the Marine Corps. The Lakers group all took time to meet someone they consider to be one of America's finest.

"Hey, this is the job we train for every day. I just got a chance to apply that job when I was in the desert," said Cox, a Jeffersonville, Ind., native. "That they thought about us while we were in the sand means a lot."

"With things in Iraq and recent events, I had friends in the military over there also, so it kind of hit close to home for me," added Cook. "I was praying for them, so it is a blessing to meet them too."

After meeting the players Sgt. Joe McMullen, CH-53E crew chief, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, said "It's interesting that there are more people than just our close circle that are aware of what we are doing and why. It's great that they are here because children and people look up to their idols - up to them as idols - and if the people they look up to think something is important, then they will see the importance."

Sunny California rarely seems so hot as when you're wearing a flak jacket and getting thrown in the dirt, so next stop on the visit was the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program tan belt course.

Upon seeing Sgt. Michael E. Childs, MCMAP instructor, Provost Marshal's Office, training the Marines "by the numbers," even Lakers Girl Nicole Irving wanted to see if she could meet the challenge.

"This is a really cool experience - definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I have a lot more respect for what the Marines do and this is just incredible," said Irving, while Childs instructed her on the proper technique for executing a leg sweep.

A high-energy grappling demonstration by Childs and fellow instructor Staff Sgt. Kenneth C. Alexander was the planned end to the day.

"I am really impressed. Though everyone is nice, they are really serious about their business," said San Diego native Walton, who graduated from Arizona, named Honorable Mention All-America by AP and garnered All-Pac-10 Conference recognition in his junior and senior year. "We've been in helicopters, flew them in the simulator, and we're learning how to drop each other. It's been a great day so far."

Of course, the highlight of the day for many of the Marines at the MCMAP training was undoubtedly an unplanned one. Feeling motivated by the grappling demo, Cook decided to use some of his newly-acquired skills, and proceeding to drop Walton, right into the dirt.

"We learned so much and we walked away with a greater respect for the Marines," said Chow, laughing at players. "These are some of the most amazing people I've ever met. We'd definitely love to come back."

In both camps, there are those that are considered amazing, even heroes... some don a jersey, the others camis.


Sgt. Michael E. Childs, Provost Marshal's Office training NCO, gives Brian Cook and Luke Walton, both forwards for the Los Angeles Lakers, a Marine Corps welcome in front of cameras for NBA's Inside Stuff before demonstrating Marine Corps martial arts training.
Photo by: Sgt. Richard J. Kulleck