CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. --
Heavy rain and gusts of wind blast a handful of Marines as they glance at their watches. Waiting.
“Let them know what they’re in for,” said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Taylor. “Make their lives hell.”
The first bus screeches to a halt and five drill instructors happily comply, welcoming hundreds of high school students to Recruiting Station Twin Cities’ mini boot camp.
“We bring them here to give them an idea of what to expect when they enlist,” explained Taylor, RS Twin Cities’ program specialist. “We do it to open their eyes. It’s not a joke.”
Nearly 700 aspiring Marines and guests from five states descended on Camp Ripley May 4 to attend the three-day training evolution; a few even skipping their senior prom.
“I've wanted to be a Marine since I was in first grade," said Jonathan House, a Forest Lake, Minn., native. “If I'm going to go, I'm going to go and be the best.”
Twin Cities recruiters designed the event to weed out those individuals who are likely to give up when they arrive in San Diego or Parris Island, S.C., for recruit training.
“If they can’t handle three days of intense physical training and mental exhaustion then they’re definitely not going to make it when we send them to the real boot camp,” said RS Twin Cities Sgt. Maj. Sean Cox. “We’d rather have them quit now than ship and decide the Marine Corps isn’t right for them later.
Only one guest decided to call their parents for a ride home after receiving their warm welcome.
"It's all about bettering the product," said Taylor, a 36-year-old Springfield, Mo., native. “Ten poolees quit on the first day at last year's mini boot camp so we’re getting better when it comes to screening.”
Aspiring Marines will stay in the Delayed Entry Program three months up to a year before finally shipping to boot camp. During that time, poolees participate in a variety of functions with recruiters to prepare them for the challenge ahead.
“I know I’m going to get the crap kicked out of me,” said House, who attended the event with Recruiting Substation Coon Rapids. "I can handle the physical part; I just need to work on the mental stuff. This weekend is definitely going to help.”
For additional imagery from the event, visit www.facebook.com/rstwincities.