Marines Why do men go west of the Mississippi?

Special Assignment

SAN DIEGO — Since October 2008, U.S. Marine Sergeant Xavier Bynum has recruited 67 young men and women from the Houston area to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. Forty-three of them have already arrived at the San Diego Marine Recruiting Depot where approximately 19,000 recruits become Marines annually. The male recruits living west of the Mississippi River go to San Diego and all female recruits go to Parris Island, NC for the 13-week intensive boot camp. Christopher Weikel, 19 of Kingwood said, “I came to the Marines because this is my thing to do for my country. Most of my family has become Marines, my grandfather is a retired Capitan.”

With his new Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem (the official US Marine Corps insignia), following boot camp, Weikel plans to take combat training in North Carolina and study to become a combat engineer. “I will stay as long as I can. Basic training was lots of hiking,” he said. Forty-two weeks out of the year, the San Diego Marine Corps Recruiting Depot (MCRD) graduate recruits like Weikel, certifying them as Marines where they do a lot more than forced walking.

Bynum said, “My recruits show up because I look for young men and women who could be a successful recruit and then a Marine. Bynum, one of 77 Houston area recruiters, also said that he works with youth ages 18 and 19 to prepare them for what it will take to become a successful recruit. He and his recruits can be seen doing physical workouts once a week at Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cullen Parks. He said that they run, do pull ups and crunches to prepare them for the strenuous routines required in the Marine Corps Basic Camp.

Trever Pierce, 19, of Arlington, TX also said that he joined the Marines for his country. Pierce said, “I joined because of my country. It is the least I could do for what it has done for us in the past. I feel the need to become something greater than I am, a more disciplined person.” Pierce said that he would get additional training for the infantry. “I like to be on the front line,” the Summit High School graduate said of serving in the infantry.

Bynum accompanied 34 area educators on their Educators Workshop trip to San Diego. With an all volunteer military, this branch for the past 20 years has taken the first-hand-look approach at providing an up-close view at the US Marine Corps by bringing high school counselors, principals, and teachers to the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot. Houston educators participated in the five-day exercise by role playing at a far lighter level of intensity than the true Marine will endure.

“We work to get educators and community influencer such as mayors, judges, and elected officials to pass information on to the students and let the public know what the Marines do. Teachers can tell students about the opportunities in the Marine Corps,” said Sergeant Bobbie Curtis.

Staff Sergeant, Antonio Flores, Jr. 34, a 14-year Marine Corps Veteran who has been deployed on five missions including Iraq, Narobi, Kenya, Lima Peru, Yerem, Armenia and Japan, was the drill instructor (DI) for the Houston educators and with each opportunity, he diligently explained the core values of the US Marine Corps of “honor, courage, and commitment.” During each bus ride to and from the staging areas, he used it as an opportunity to give details about Marine Corps life. DI Flores, a Jackson, N.J. native said, “I’ve always wanted to follow law enforcement. I read the history of the Marines as a young man and wanted to be a part of the Few and the Proud.” The proud Marine said, “If I ‘m going to die for my country, so that my family can have a better life, I might as well do it with the Marines, the best.” Flores is married to a Marine and they have two children.

Regarding the educators workshop, he said, “I love interacting with people, my wrestling coach and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) pushed be to do better and all the achievements I have accomplished comes from the diverse nature of the Marines.” Flores believes that the educators can share information that can guide the students in discussions when they talk to them about what they want to become. “Yes, it will be hard. However, they can tell the students what they need to know by having a better understanding of what they are talking about. You can see the light bulb go off with some of the educators during the workshop,” said Flores.

There is success in recruiting in Texas because it is a patriotic state according to Marine Corps officials. Major Jason A. Borovies, 34, the Commanding Officer for the Houston Recruiting Station said, “Texans are patriotic and have a tradition of service and Houston has the third largest veterans community in the country.” Borovies believes that the Educators Workshop is essential to recruiting in an all volunteer military, “It helps to tell the Marine Corps story as less than 1% of Americans have been a Marine and this workshop helps pass the message on to people who are influential and are educators about the Marines,” he said.

After the educators’ experience, they are more willing to allow the recruits on campus to talk with the students according to Major Borovies.

Selection of the 2011 class of MCRD educators came from an applicant pool of 140-200 with 40 being selected to participate and 34 actual attendees from the Houston area. Borovies, who has overseen three such classes, said that the 2011 class was the best. He said, “These educators were the best of the three. They were more engaged, participated more, talked with the recruits, cheered on each other, and asked the DI many questions.”

“Whether they [new recruits] realize it or not, they are learning teamwork and building bonds for the future during their 13 weeks of boot camp,” said Col. Stevens.

Danielle Hubbard, 31, a former Air Force recruit and a Teach for America Geometry in Alief Independent School District instructor said, “I came on the trip to learn more about the Marines and how they can be a help to our students. Justice of the Peace Judge Sallie Gonzalez, of Harlingen, TX said, “This experience will help me as I see so many children in my court for various misconduct. I will be able to help by working with them to clear their records so that the Marines can be an option for them.”

Brigadier General Daniel D. Yoo, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot/Western Recruiting Region/Marine Corps Recruiting Command told the educators, that it was important to educate the public at-large about the Marines, to sit down and talk about the voluntary force. “This is the same thing that we do for congressional members. We discuss the cost of defense of the nation and as we draw down in Afghanistan from hard power to soft power, we must be prepared, have a common bond and commitment to the country,” said the veteran. The General discussed further the assimilation process for the recruits emphasizing that the contact with the recruits are “unfiltered” and they are unfiltered spokesman who fight for their country and have a mentor-mentee relationship with their DI who gives them guidance and teaches team building through a transformation process. Ending his statement to the educators, he said, “We are your Marine Corps.”

Sergeant Major Sylvester D. Daniels, Sergeant Major Marie Corps Recruit Depot/Western Recruiting Region, a Jackson, TN native said, “The Marine Corps offer something different, pride, self confidence and leadership. These are things that will make a better person. They are the intangibles. We rock.”

David Winfiele, a Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology special education co-teacher and world history 10th grade instructor said, “I was impressed that in so short of time each recruit internalizes the Marine Corps core values of honor, courage, and commitment. This is done by the mentor-mentee relationship between the drill instructor and the recruits in his platoon.” Houston new Marine, Private First Class Paul Garza, 19, said, “It was hard, it was hard. It was the best experience that I have had. It was tough on all of us. But the DI took care of me. He took care of all of us.”

Chaplain Robert Peters of the third Battalion advised the educators of CARE, which are Counseling, Advice, Religious Aspect, and Everything. Peters, a Ph.D. Chaplin explained that there are 17 religious services per week that covers all dominations and beliefs the Marines desire. William Jeffery, 9-year science teacher and 4-year head basketball coach at Jefferson Davis High School in the Houston Independent School District said, “I have learned a lot of things on a lot of different levels at this Educators Workshop. For instance, the influence educators have on students, meeting the soldiers. I think that I am doing more good than I thought I was doing with my students. The workshop gave me a greater awareness of the role I play within my community and I understand it.”

The United States Marines Corps was organized during the second Continental Congress in 1775. Its first amphibious landing raid was in 1776 in the Bahamas. Marines have served in the War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil Was, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

The 388 acre Marine Corps Recruiting Depot base with 367 acres of tidal area are responsible for providing basically trained Marines to be prepared when the nation calls. For their serve the nation provide tuition assistance, the Montgomery GI Bill, Marine Corps College Fund, Continuing Education, Marine Corps Institute distance learning program and Officer Commissioning Programs. When injured while on duty service, health benefits are provided at veteran hospitals such as the DeBakey Hospital in Houston. Deceased Marines have the option to be buried in military cemeteries such as Veteran Memorial Cemetery in North Houston.

The educators witnessed the graduation ceremony recognizing the 13-weeks of basic training of the young men west of the Mississippi River, many of whom were their students a year ago like Marines Miss. Lott from Sterling High School and Mr. Jenkins from Worthing High School.

Chief Officer General Yao
Chief Officer General Yao - Photo by Dorcaus Robinson

Brigadier General Daniel D. Yoo, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot/Western Recruiting Region/Marine Corps Recruiting Command in San Diego.

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