Marine Hopefuls Build Strength, Teamwork at Annual Fitness Event

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps.)
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps.)

Middletown resident Ethan Fowler got a taste of what it's like to be in the Marine Corps on Saturday.

Fowler, 19, panted and wiped sweat from his brow on Saturday afternoon as Marine hopefuls like himself sprinted across a soccer field carrying 60 pounds worth of ammo cans at Ballenger Creek Park.

"I always wanted to join the Marines," he said. "I like the ideals behind it and the brotherhood."

Fowler was one of roughly 450 "poolees" — people who have already signed up to become a Marine but not yet started boot camp — at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station Frederick's annual Pool Function.

Capt. Michael Schmidt, the executive officer of the Frederick recruiting station, said the annual event is a chance for poolees to get a taste of recruit training at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina.

It is also a chance to build camaraderie, Schmidt said. Members from 10 recruiting substations across the Maryland and Virginia area competed in field day activities such as relays, sprints and races.

A drill instructor from Parris Island was at Saturday's event, shouting orders at soon-to-be recruits. Once the recruits graduate from boot camp, they will be Marines, according to Schmidt.

Fowler said he is scheduled for training in Parris Island in October. He signed up for the military after a semester at Shepherd University, saying he could not bear sitting in a classroom all day.

To prepare for Parris Island, Fowler said he attends physical training sessions hosted by the Frederick recruiting station twice a week and does an additional five miles a day on an elliptical machine.

Seth Merson, a 17-year-old senior at Catoctin High School, said he is preparing in a similar manner. He runs two miles every day and goes to the gym six days a week, leaving one day to rest and recover.

Merson signed up to join the Marine Corps three days before Christmas. His family's military background, including a line of grandfathers who served, propelled him to serve his country.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," Merson said. He will head off to boot camp Oct. 1.

Staff Sgt. Jacob Shuey, who works at the recruiting station based in Frederick, said he tries to prepare Marine hopefuls physically, mentally and emotionally before they head off to Parris Island.

In addition to the Marines and Marine hopefuls at Saturday's event, a crowd of family, friends and loved ones stood next to the field cheering and clapping their support.

Marrisa Maldonado watched from the sidelines as her boyfriend, Bryan Allen, competed in a tug-of-war competition on the field. Maldonado said she was nervous when he first told her he was joining the Marine Corps, but she's now excited for him as he readies for Parris Island.

"I'm proud of him," she said. "Not a lot of people could do this. It's a good branch and it's good for him."

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