Staff Sgt. Matthew Baughman, a Salem-based recruiter, said the office is a place for kids thinking about the Marines to hang out. There is a television with a PlayStation video game system connected and a computer with Internet access.
Those littering the East State Street office include recruiters, new Marines fresh from boot camp and home for a few weeks before leaving for their next round of training, people thinking about joining who have not yet signed their paperwork and poolees, the young adults, primarily high school students, who have signed up for delayed entry into the corps.
The recruiters lead a weekly run to help poolees get or stay in the top physical condition needed for the grueling 13-week boot camp.
“Mentally, we can scream and yell all you want, but when they get down there [to boot camp] it’s another cup of tea,” Baughman said.
To give poolees and those still not 100 percent sure a taste of what the corps will really be like, the Marines of Recruiting Station Cleveland, which includes the Salem substation, held an 18-hour overnight “training evolution” on a Friday and Saturday in late May.
From the Salem office, recruiter Staff Sgt. Tyrone Sidney and his direct superior, Gunnery Sgt. William Brahen, led a cavalcade of 18 men and one woman to the glorified camping trip held deep inside the 21,000 acre Ravenna Arsenal.
A promise of “catered chow” Friday night was used as an incentive against the fact that Saturday’s events were to start with a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call and a two-mile run.
I hitched a ride on one of the large white 15-seat vans shuttling future jarheads and leathernecks to the event. I had it easy. I was going home after dinner.
On the ride to Ravenna, I sat between two high school juniors — Matthew Lucenti, 18, of Calcutta, and Luke Shockley, 17, of Lisbon. Lucenti, a poolee, is in the delayed entry program and plans to leave for boot camp in June 2009, just days after graduation. Shockley has not signed up yet but has intentions of doing so.
Both young men showed excitement at the opportunity but anxiety over the reality of joining the Marine Corps.
Lucenti attended school at Beaver Local this year but is transferring to Wellsville schools because Wellsville requires fewer credits to graduate, he said. For Lucenti, the corps represents a guaranteed job and a way out of rural Ohio for a less-than-stellar student living in a weak job market.
“Probably no better chance to see the world than to join the military,”
Lucenti said. He picked the Marines because he figured they were “the best of the best,” he said.
A half-an-hour earlier, Lucenti was among the 34 young adults culled from the Salem, Boardman and Warren recruiting offices who were ordered to fall in and stand at attention as recruiters searched everyone’s bags for banned items like lighters, knives and pornography.
“I was nervous when I had to fall in line,” Lucenti later said. “I just hope I’ll be able to get used to it.”
Shockley, who also attends Beaver Local, said he’s always wanted to join the military and was thinking about joining the Army, but the Army recruiter who came to his school said Shockley was about 20 pounds too heavy to be accepted into the Army. Staff Sgt. Sidney did not share that opinion.
Shockley scored high on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), meaning he can choose nearly any job in the Marines he wants. He’s leaning toward something aviation related.
Shockley’s family has a long line of military service, with grandfathers who served in World War II and Korea and uncles who served in Vietnam.
Military service skipped a generation with Shockley’s parents. His father had wanted to serve but was ineligible. Shockley’s mother and father were both born deaf. In fact, though Shockley has normal hearing, his first language was sign language, he said.
Most of Shockley’s family is supportive of his decision to enlist. Everyone except his grandmother.
“She’s almost completely against it,” Shockley said, suggesting her trepidation may stem from a combination of the unpopular Iraq war and the fact that “Marines go in first.”
He said he allays family concerns by saying, “Don’t worry. I’m not going into the infantry. The jobs I’m going to pick are relatively safe.”
He paused to think for second. “A freak accident would be the way to get hurt.”
Though Shockley and Lucenti said they would be willing to fight in Iraq, neither thought the U.S. should still be there.
“I don’t really see why we’re still over there,” Lucenti said. “I know we’re trying to liberate them, but we’ve been over there for an awful long time.”
At one time, Shockley believed in the war cause. Now, “I’ve gotten less and less supportive of it,” he said. The price tag for the war has grown too costly and the country is too far in debt, he said.
As Lucenti asked Shockley a question about oil, one of the poolees in the back of the van asked if Lucenti ever shuts up.
“You’re stressing me out,” the poolee said.
Lucenti kept talking. Sidney turned on the radio to appease the peanut gallery.
Leonard Glenn Crist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Poolees culled from the Salem, Boardman and Warren Marine Corps recruiting offices march in formation at the Ravenna Arsenal during a recent training exercise. Poolees are the young adults who sign up for delayed entry in the Marines. (Salem News photo by Leonard Glenn Crist)