Grad goes from the classroom to the Marine Corps

January 6, 2011 — by Anshu Siripurapu

The Marine Corps Recruit Depot or MCRD in San Diego is an alien world within the bustling city. A stone’s throw from the San Diego International Airport, the Marines just within sight from the rest of the world, but completely isolated. Recruits are allowed no contact with the outside except for letters and are held to the highest standards of discipline and conduct. This is what 2010 alumnus of Danny Baldwin stepped into.

“It plays this crazy mind game with you,” said Baldwin. “You can see civilization right there and yet you’re stuck in boot camp with absolutely no contact with the outside world while getting screamed at.”

Baldwin enlisted in the Marine Corps after the recruitment office came to visit SHS. The process is both complex and deeply involved. The initial enlistment requires over 40 pages of paperwork including, but not limited to, extensive background and drug checks.

“I remember when I enlisted, the first day when I swore my oath—it was a pretty great feeling,” said Baldwin. “But I didn’t end up going into boot camp until about six months after that.”
Baldwin entered into the Delayed Entry Program, which most high school recruits take. This allows more time to get in shape and learn more about the corps before basic training. Six months after enlistment, Baldwin finally was sent to the MCRD where boot camp began.

The Marines basic training is not only five weeks longer than that of the Army but is also requires more training and discipline, said Baldwin.

“Most athletes at Saratoga, especially if they played football or lacrosse, would be able to handle the physical aspect of the training,” said Baldwin. “But it’s a lot of mental stuff; they break you down mentally and emotionally. The first five weeks they just break you down, and then you spend the next seven building yourself back up, and when you leave, you’re more confident, you’re strong—it’s amazing what they can do.”

A typical day at boot camp begins at around 4:30 or 5:30 a.m.

“They wake you up and scream at you to get you’re stuff on,” said Baldwin. “You get dressed—completely dressed—and with your bed made all under two minutes.”

After that, Marine recruits go to “chow” where they again are under strict time constraints.

“They give you a dinner tray, about the size of a textbook and you have eat an entire meal in about two minutes,” said Baldwin. “But the food’s pretty good.”

After chow, depending on the phase of boot camp, Marines can go to a variety of activities: physical conditioning, classes, Marine martial arts training, and drill, where they learn marching and rifle manuals.

“No two boot camp experiences are identical,” said Baldwin. “Everyone’s is different because we’re all in different platoons with different drill instructors. There are even two different recruitment depots. But all of them will train you to be a Marine.”

Baldwin said his boot camp experience was very different from what he expected.

“I expected it to be a lot more physically challenging but the mental aspect caught me off guard,” said Baldwin. “They’re always yelling at you and making you yell back but being loud all the time makes your core stronger, gives you more lung capacity and prepares you for actual war when there’s noise all the time.”

Despite the difficulty of basic training, Baldwin said basic training has made a huge impact in his life. Along with increased physical strength, greater attention to detail and more confidence, his outlook on life also changed.

“[Being in the Marines] makes you really evaluate what’s important you and what’s not,” said Baldwin. “You put yourself aside and you just do what you need to do to get the job done. You have to adapt and overcome.”

After his stay at MCRD, Baldwin was sent to the Military Occupational Specialty School in North Carolina, where Marines learn specific career fields ranging from mechanics to pilots. After he finishes in February, he will rotate home for four years and be stationed as a reserve out of San Jose. After those four years of reserve, a time when he can also attend college, he will then go on active duty for two years.

“People think if you join the Marines you can’t go to college, but that’s [untrue],” said Baldwin. “Active duty Marines can go to college wherever they want completely for free.”

Even within the Marines, there are a wide variety of different occupational specialties, as well as a chance to go to different Marine bases around the world.

Baldwin is the perfect example of a local hero, risking his life for the defense of his community.

“I would definitely encourage SHS students to enlist,” said Baldwin,” but you have to really want it. Joining the Corps was hardest things I’ve done but a great decision.”

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