Sergeant Jarred E. Fienhold looked over the crowd, the crowd stared back with a look of fear and reverence in their eyes. With one final smirk to himself, Fienhold shouted, “We’re gonna start with side-straddle hops!” and began the exercise.
“Oh, I guess those are too easy, well let’s just start to slowly squat down,” shouted Fienhold, canvassing recruiter, Recruiting Substation Farmington, Recruiting Station St Louis. “That’s right, midget-jacks!”
Though he could be addressing a platoon of Marines during physical training, today Fienhold was leading a gym class full of high school students. Fienhold was invited by the physical education department at Northwest High School to come in and lead their students during the day’s gym classes.
“I love to do it because the kids are into it,” said Fienhold, a Bakersfield, MO native. “And it’s a great way for me to keep up with PT.”
The Marine Corps holds physical fitness in high regard. It is used to determine promotion but also to help Marines handle the stresses they may experience in combat. However, when he’s in the schools, the mission is different for Fienhold. Its more about teaching high school students the benefits of physical fitness.
“I love it when (Sergeant) Fienhold comes in, because he gets these kids to work harder than they will for me,” said Geoff Macy, physical education teacher, Northwest HS. “His workouts always leave the kids tired and sweating, and the kids love it.”
Fienhold’s workouts could be compared to an Incentive Training session recruits receive in recruit training. For between 20 -30 minutes, the students are doing jumping jacks, crunches, push-ups and flutter kicks to Fienhold’s or one of his fellow recruiters’ pace. The students are pushed to their limits with the exercises, but never to a dangerous level.
“These kids aren’t Marines, so I can’t hold them to the same standards I hold my Marines too,” said Fienhold, “but I do make them sweat and surprisingly there are kids who want me to push harder.”
The students are not the only people who want Fienhold to work the students as hard as possible.
“(The physical education teachers) work to help these kids stay in shape, but they will only work so hard for us. When (Sgt. Fienhold) comes in they are a little in awe and scared,” said Macy. “I ask who doesn’t want to participate and surprisingly only a few raise their hands. He (Fienhold) gets a great response.”
After each grueling session, Fienhold pulls all of the students together to hear their thoughts on the workout. It’s an opportunity to tell the kids about fitness, but also about the Marine Corps.
“It was a good experience on what perseverance really is,” said William Bechtold, a Senior at Northwest, “It showed me a taste of how much effort it takes to be a Marine.”
Macy said the kids get tired of hearing they need to be active from their teachers. The Marines provide a new perspective and a fresh face to the message he has been sending them through their high school years. Also, letting the Marines come in to workout with the students give the students an opportunity to learn about another avenue after high school.
“As a teacher, you are always looking for ways to help your students succeed,” said Macy, a St Louis native himself. “Not all of these kids will go to college or right into the workforce. Its good for them to learn about all the options they have when they graduate.”
While Macy and his fellow P.E. teachers help Fienhold to reach their upperclassmen, leading the classes gives him an opportunity to reach beyond the students who will graduate in his time on recruiting duty. He leads students who are freshmen and sophomores as well, thus helping to ensure the Marine after him will have a good foundation for his or her recruiting tour.
“I was surprised the upperclassmen participated as much as they did,” said Macy. “The freshmen are most up to the challenge but it works well with the juniors and seniors too.”
Teachers like Macy help in starting a program to incorporate the Marine Corps into high schools, but it did not happen immediately. Fienhold worked hard to establish a good rapport with the many administrators at Northwest High School, the fifth largest high school in Missouri.
“We have recruiters come in and talk with us all the time, talk with students a lot and they usually offer their services,” said Macy. “We talked with him about the program and it fit right into our curriculum.”
From there, Feinhold took the reigns and designed a workout session, that he leads in Northwest at least once a semester. This is how Bechtold described his experience, as he stood covered in sweat and ready to change clothes.
“I was laughing when I watched (Fienhold) move into the midget-jack position,” said Bechtold, “but getting down into it, really kicked my butt. Those were tough!”