Midshipmen Train With Marines in Spain

Midshipmen Train With Marines in Spain

U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen are shown the functions and intricacies of the MK19 grenade launcher at Moron Air Base, Spain, May 27, 2014. The training was conducted during the midshipmen's "professional cruise," a program that allows future Naval Academy graduates to experience time in the Marine Corps. Photo by LCpl Alexander Hill.

MORON AIR BASE, Spain (June 26, 2014) - This past summer, four midshipmen left the pristine halls and classrooms of the U.S. Naval Academy and stepped into a new environment of rigorous training with the Marines.

Midshipmen Zachary Gawboy, Zachary Elsner, Lukas Alland, and Ryan Lewandowski from the U.S. Naval Academy all received the opportunity to train with U.S. Marines of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response from May 26 to June 17, 2014. During their time with the Marines, the midshipmen visited various bases in Europe to include Moron Air Base and the Candanchú Mountain Training Camp in Spain, as well as Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy.

The midshipmen were hosted by Marines from Camp Lejeune's 8th Marine Regiment and Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines – which are the SP-MAGTF Crisis Response command element and ground- combat element respectively.

The training was planned as part of the "professional cruise," a program which allows future U.S. Naval Academy graduates to experience, first-hand, life as a naval officer by temporarily attaching them with their choice of either a U.S. Navy or Marine Corps unit.

"We chose to work with the Marines because we all wanted that extra challenge, and it's a different world to the one we are used too," said Elsner, of Boone, Iowa. "The academy focuses just on the Navy, so it's good to be here with Marines and get the Marine side of things."

During their four-week visit, the midshipmen spent time training with the M16A4 service rifle on live-fire ranges, living with infantry platoons, participating in bilateral training events with the Spanish military, and shadowing various Marine Corps officers.

"The training was a great experience; we haven't been able to shoot at the academy before. Being able to go to the ranges and learn from the Marines was a really great time," said Gawboy, of Maple Grove, Minnesota. "We did so many things that I have never done before but we were instructed very well and I can surely take a lot back from what I've learned."

FirstLt Kristan Volk, a platoon commander with Kilo Co., describes what it was like training the midshipmen.

"They were great to work with. They learned fast, asked a lot of questions, and kept up with the Marines. I know they learned a lot from being here."

The midshipmen also took it upon themselves to experience life in the Marine Corps through the lenses of both officer and enlisted Marines'.

"We're here to do Marine Corps training to help us decide which service selection to join when we graduate," said Lewandowski, of Laramie, Wyoming. "A lot of what we are doing is trying to understand what it's like to be a Marine Corps officer. Beyond that, we want to understand what it's like to be enlisted in the Marines."

"I think it's important to understand what it's like to be enlisted," said Alland, of Hancock County, Kentucky. "At the academy, you are surrounded by officers and only the officer's mindset."

The four midshipmen are currently in their sophomore year at the U.S. Naval Academy. With two more years of schooling before graduation, Alland says the Marine Corps remains his preferred choice of service.

"I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do when I came in, but being here has really solidified my decision to work with the Marine Corps. We have been able to shadow lieutenants and captains so it has really helped to develop leadership characteristics that we like so that we can retain them and become the best officers we can be."

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