MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
During the summer months, most high school students spend their time inside watching TV, hanging out with peers at a mall or poolside soaking up the sun.
However, through the bold leadership of Marines and sailors with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a select few from El Camino High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets experienced a part of the Marine Corps they would never see inside their classrooms on campus.
The cadets took part in a taxing two and a half day training evolution supervised by retired Master Sgt. Mark Coates and retired 1st Sgt. Gene LaRue, the Marine Instructors at ECHS, on base living like Marines would, Aug. 15-16.
“The cadets selected to come on base were our cadet noncommissioned officers, cadet staff noncommissioned officers and cadet officers,” said Coates, emphasizing the importance of training his leaders. “School starts next week and we wanted to be able to instill some motivation along with responsibility before the school year starts off.”
The motivation and responsibility included staying in the MEU’s barracks, eating at the local chow hall, conducting field days and standing hour-long fire watch duty throughout the night.
“The only (Marine Corps activity) most high school kids see is what is in movies and on television,” said Sgt. Benjamin M. Manibog, NCO in charge of the event, and a maintenance clerk in the logistics section of the 15th MEU. “You can only grasp so much from that, but to actually see the day-to-day training and operations Marines go through first hand will ultimately help them better grasp what we as Marines do,” added the 24-year-old Los Angeles native.
The cadets started their first day of training by running Camp Del Mar’s grueling obstacle course. For the majority of the cadets, this meant conquering a fear of heights and pushing themselves harder than they normally would.
“The obstacle course was a real challenge but seeing the Marines move through the different parts with such ease inspired me to push through,” said David Barranco, 17, cadet commanding officer and student with the school’s JROTC.
The cadets concluded their evening with a guided discussion reflecting on what they have learned as far as teamwork, leadership, strengths and weaknesses; giving the instructors an opportunity to further mentor their cadets.
The next morning, the cadets marched in a platoon formation over to the unit’s armory and received classes on various weapon systems employed by the Marine Corps. The weapons included: M9 Beretta Pistol, M4 and M16 service rifles, M240B machine gun, M249 squad automatic weapon, M2 Browning machine gun, MK19 machine gun, Enhanced Marksmanship Rifle and the M1014 shotgun.
“We showed the cadets the different capabilities of each weapon, such as maximum effective ranges and other statistics,” said Manibog. “We also emphasized the importance of weapons handling and safety procedures.”
The afternoon involved a period of instruction regarding lifesaving techniques in a combat situation, taught by the unit’s battle-hardened corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Devin L. Turner. Additionally, the cadets received a brief on patrolling taught by Sgt. Jamaal Robinson, also a combat veteran, followed by a practical application of the two topics.
“The class I taught gave a better understanding of what it means to be a combat lifesaver,” said Turner, a 28-year-old native of Fresno, Calif. “I think the cadets were able to see how stressful it can be once we put them through the practical application.”
To finish off the work day, the cadets learned about what tactical vehicles the MEU has to offer and then headed back to their respective barracks.
“The time we spent at Camp Pendleton showed me how to become a better leader,” said Fermar Pabualan, 17, the cadet executive officer, and student with the school’s JROTC. “I learned how to better look out for my troops, and most of all the Marines really motivated me.”