More than 400 young men and women from Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and South Dakota who have signed up to become Marines came together here May 1-2 for what most described as, “One heck of a tiring weekend.”
Recruiting Station Des Moines’ annual field meet brings these “poolees” waiting to attend recruit training together to build camaraderie and teamwork in a fun, but competitive, environment.
A bonus for poolees this year was an unexpected peak at a Marine Corps awards and promotion ceremony the night prior to the meet. The next morning, however, it was business as usual.
The poolees were rudely awakened at 7 a.m. by their recruiters as if it were recruit training. The poolees got dressed, made their beds, conducted a hygiene inspection and cleaned their surroundings before the echoing cadence from their 1.5-mile formation run woke up the camp’s other residents. But this was just a warm up.
Another 1.5-mile run – clocked this time -- kicked off an initial strength test (IST), which also includes pull ups and two minutes of crunches, to show recruiters where their poolees have fitness shortfalls to shore up before recruit training. From there, life got a bit more interesting and the competition heated up.
For the next four hours, the poolees competed in a wheel-barrel race and a “dizzy izzy” competition where participants spin in place multiple times before attempting to run a straight line. They also went head-to-head in a modified version of the Marine Corps’ new combat physical fitness test and went for the third run of the day – this time in combat gear -- before closing the event with a tug-o-war.
Despite the fact that poolees from the Lincoln, Neb., area came out victorious in the close competition, Dubuque, Iowa, area poolee Nicholas Wepking said he didn’t care about winning; he was just glad to compete amongst his peers.
“It’s not very often every single one of us can get together like this,” said Wepking, an 18-year-old Dubuque High School student. “Just think, in a month or so, I’ll be seeing some familiar faces at recruit training, which is reassuring. As far as the event itself, we all came here with a lot of energy and I’m sure after this weekend we’ll all be going home asleep.”
Sergeant Maj. Brad A. Kasal, the recruiting station’s senior enlisted Marine, said the whole reason for the field meet was to bring every poolee together because they all have something in common, while many are geographically isolated from one another.
“This is a great way to get them motivated, by competing and interacting with each other here,” Kasal said.
Kasal gave words of wisdom to the poolees before they took off to go back home at the end of the day.
“Most everyone here has had to deal with adversity,” Kasal said. “I am sure everyone one of you has had people come up to you and say, ‘Why are you joining the Marines? Why would you do that when you could be going to college?’ I will tell you right now, that a person who goes and graduates college would not be as proud to say where he graduated from as a Marine who served four years or 20 would. That title will be with him forever.”