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Marines Intense event gives recruits a preview of training

Saturday would have been the perfect sunny day for Sean Shaffer to do nothing.

But the 24-year-old Westminster resident is scheduled to report Monday to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C., so he was participating in the Frederick Marine Corps Recruiting Station's 2014 annual Pool Function -- a day of strenuous exercises that are common in Marine recruit training.

"I've never seen a drill instructor operate, so I was really excited," Shaffer said. "It gets your blood pumping faster and makes you feel active."

About 350 Marine "poolees" participated Saturday. More than 90 percent were men.

Sgt. Amber Williams, of the Frederick Marine Corps Recruiting Station, said "poolees" refers to those in the pool of future Marines. Saturday gave them a chance to interact with drill instructors, many of whom flew from Parris Island just for the event. The exercises also offer a preview of what recruits can expect throughout their careers.

The majority of Saturday's participants who gathered on a soccer field at Frederick Community College have already sworn in to the Marines and have ship dates, Williams said.

"It's a big deal. A lot of of these kids -- some of them under 18 -- have made a huge commitment," she said.

The exercises included relays, pullup and pushup challenges, lifting 30 to 40 pounds, sprint relays and specialty intensive training.

Sgt. Maj. William Sweeney, of the Frederick Marine Corps Recruiting Station, told the poolees that if they had to be "dragged to the finish line," they probably did not belong in the program. They should aspire to be like the drill instructors around them, he said.

"Take care of your business, boys -- you understand me?" he said.

Both Shaffer and Lindsay Wagner, 17, of Sykesville, said Saturday's activities did not scare them off.

"It definitely made me realize I'm making the right decision with my life," Wagner said.

A military career had always interested her, Wagner said, and she selected the Marines because it seemed to be the most intense branch of the service.

"I like to challenge myself and take the hard way in life," she said.

For Shaffer, enlisting was a personal decision.

"I wanted to grow up," he said. "I'm in my mid-20s now, and I've known for some time that I want to give back."

For others interested in preparing to join the Marines, Shaffer and Wagner said they would recommend doing some type of full-body exercise a few times a week, plus lots of running.

Before enlisting, they said, recruits must disclose their full medical history and any criminal history, then go through a physical and an entrance test.

Then there's a waiting period. Shaffer's was six months, Wagner's was only two.

"It's so much quicker for females, I guess because it's more of a demand," Wagner said.

Maj. Paul Bock, of the Frederick Marine Corps Recruiting Station, said everyone he saw Saturday appeared ready for the Marines.

"I observed a lot of camaraderie and team-building," he said.

The biggest challenge for both men and women was the timed 1.5 mile, Bock said, along with the pullups for men and flex-arm hang for women.

Poolees would be kept where they were if they did not meet the day's standards, he said.

"We're not going to send them until they're mentally, morally and physically fit to go," Bock said. "We don't want to set them up for failure."

@LauraDukesFNP

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