Marine Poolees Learn Teamwork during Grueling Hike

Marine Poolees Learn Teamwork during Grueling Hike

Walt Baker, a member of the Marine Corps' Delayed Entry Program, carries a 10-foot log during a three-mile logistics hike at the Salisbury Zoo in Salisbury, Md., Sept. 12, 2015. Approximately 30 Marine Corps recruits, also known as poolees, participated in the hike, which was designed to physically challenge them and build camaraderie prior to attending recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina later this year. Photo by Sgt Bryan Nygaard.

SALISBURY, Md. (October 28, 2015) – It's a warm Saturday morning and sweat is dripping off the foreheads of the young recruits. Many people are still sleeping in, repeatedly hitting their alarm clock snooze buttons– still tired from their 9 to 5 jobs. But for the young men and women interested in becoming U.S. Marines, an exhausting Saturday morning might just be their ticket out of such mundane predictability. 

The recruits, more commonly known as "poolees," assembled into two columns in the parking lot of the zoo and began a quick-paced hike through the woods. There are 30 of them, and they are being led by their Marine Corps recruiters. The Salisbury Zoo has been selected as their training ground and the distance is set at 3.2 miles.

To make the hike challenging, poolees furthest to the rear of the column had to continually run toward the front of the column. Additionally, the recruiters made the poolees carry objects such as a weighted-medicine ball, 30-pound ammunition can, a five-gallon gasoline can filled with water, and one 10-foot log. Each poolee had to carry these objects for a minimum of two minutes before handing them off to the poolee behind them. 

"The biggest thing is teaching these guys teamwork," said Sgt Randall Dobbs, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Recruiting Sub-station Salisbury, Maryland. "One of the most important reasons we hold functions like these is to teach them to overcome obstacles as a team."

Physical training events like this hike are conducted at least once a month as part of the Marine Corps' Delayed Entry Program. A person who enlists into the Marine Corps will usually be a member of the Delayed Entry Program for a minimum of three months prior to shipping to recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. The program has weekly and monthly events where poolees meet with their recruiter for activities such as physical training, one-on-one mentorship, and close-order drill practice. The goal of the program is to reduce the attrition rate at recruit training, thereby ensuring that poolees are able to achieve their goal of becoming a United States Marine. 

"If the poolees went to boot camp without this kind of training, it would be a complete slap in the face to them," said Dobbs. "Total culture shock. They would go (to boot camp) completely blind, not knowing what to expect."

The column of high school age men and women wearing blue Marine Corps shirts and carrying random objects may have been an odd sight to anyone who was walking through the Salisbury Zoo at 9 a.m. Many people stood in confusion as the column of poolees ran past them while loudly shouting running cadence. 

About every half-mile, the recruiters led the column of poolees into a clearing where they would conduct five minutes of high-intensity exercises and sprints. Once the poolees had reached the two-mile mark, fatigue had set in. 

Poolee Sam Plaskon, a native of Easton, Maryland, and a 2015 graduate of Easton High School, believes that teamwork was what helped each one of his fellow poolees finish the hike. 

"I feel like all of us working as a team just makes everybody want to keep pushing and not give up," said Plaskon. "Everybody was yelling at each other to keep doing it, let's go…that just helps out the momentum."

Once the hike was completed, Dobbs and the other recruiters gathered the poolees together and congratulated them on pushing themselves through all the way to the finish line.

"Most of them did really well," said Dobbs. "You're always going to have some stragglers here and there, but the leaders we have in our program really stepped up and pushed them to keep going. They all accomplished something today and this is something that they can take home."

Every single one of them – accomplished and exhausted. They were covered head to toe in sweat, gasping for breath and holding their sides, but more importantly, they held together as a team, much like they will need to do as Marines.

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