Bootcamp preparation is paramount

1 Mar 2006 |

Few things are as frustrating on recruiting duty as a feeling that one has wasted time and energy. A recruiter’s demanding schedule usually means that their liberty must be as managed and calculated as their prospecting activities are in thier Scheduling and Results Book. In the recruiting world time is currency and it cannot be squandered frivolously. So when a recruit fails to graduate from boot camp because he was ill-prepared for the mental and physical rigors of training, somewhere a recruiter is forced to ask himself, “Did I do enough to prepare this person for the biggest challenge of their life or did I waste precious hours that could have prepared them better?”

“It is frustrating when a young man fails to graduate because there is a lot of time spent preparing him to ship between: interviews, parental consents, numerous [Military Entrance Processing Station] visits, poolee events and physical training,” said Gunnery Sgt. Yannick Blevins, a member of the District Contact Team who has seven years experience within the recruiting field. “It is wasted time when someone drops from recruit training, and now we have to find someone else to replace him and that is very counterproductive.”

Much of the Marine Corps’ recruit attrition stems from physical injuries, but Blevins believes that both mental and physical preparation is key to an applicant’s long-term success in the Corps.

“Both are extremely important, and one is no more important than the other,” said Blevins. “You can be the most physically gifted person in the world but if your mind frame is not right, recruit training can be extremely difficult. On the other hand, being mentally prepared and not physically ready is not a good combination.”

In recent years recruiters have faced a new challenge – Americans’ losing battle against obesity. Many U.S. citizens in their late teens and early twenties – the military’s largest pool of potential applicants – would be ineligible for military service without significant weight loss.

“Obesity is the terror within,” said Richard H. Carmona, U.S. surgeon general, in a recent Los Angeles Times story. “Unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist attempt. Where will our soldiers and sailors and airmen come from? Where will our policemen and firemen come from if the youngsters today are on a trajectory that says they will be obese – laden with cardiovascular disease, increased cancers and a host of other diseases – when they reach adulthood?”

Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth A. Ray, a Recruiting Station Indianapolis MEPS liaison, said that about 25 percent of poolees need to make serious physical strides before meeting shipping requirements, but not all of them are because they are overweight. "Some kids in today’s society are just weak.”

Whatever an applicant’s physical limitations, it is obvious that athletic challenges will continue to plague at least a percentage of a recruiter’s pool, which is why Ray believes that weekly physical training sessions and monthly pool functions are key to preparing poolees for recruit training.

Ray’s experience with preparing future Marines with weight issues is not limited to his pool. He tells of a more personal experience.

“My own son lost 20 pounds to go to recruit training, shipped and went to [the Physical Conditioning Platoon],” Ray said. “He worked hard and lost 50 pounds in recruit training. He matured quite a bit.”

The surgeon general’s warning could mean that increasing numbers of future Marines will have to lose more weight while they are awaiting a ship date to a Marine Corps Recruit Depot. A recruiter’s duties will continue to grow to include becoming a dietician and a personal trainer. Recruiters must adapt, or – as Blevins said – the frustration of spending countless hours preparing a young American for recruit training only to see him return home with a stress fracture sans Eagle, Globe and Anchor, will become increasingly common. 

“Where will our soldiers and sailors and airmen come from?”

As American inflation, pun intended, continues to rise, the pool of physically fit applicants may dry up. And when that happens, Blevins believes it may carry serious ramifications within the recruiting field.

“Our poolees are our single most important asset that we have on recruiting duty,” said Blevins.  “They know our communities better than we do and they can get us referrals for future contracts. Another good thing about our poolees is that they are already in the [Delayed Entry Program], and as long as we take care of them and keep our DEP discharge percentage down, that is one less person our recruiters need to search for. Stay involved after the sale, and come through for them the way you said you would when you were getting them to join.”

A vital element of that promise may share similarities with a Jenny Craig contract, and significant weight loss may soon be the standard first step for making a Marine. 

9th Marine Corps District