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Young Marines

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by Lance Cpl. Bryan A. Peterson

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Stand up! Now get on your face! Push up!

"Marine Corps!" These words are shouted in unison by several young recruits as they push their bodies off the ground.

Does this sound familiar? Of course it does. Although it's not a platoon of Marine recruits sounding off at Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island or San Diego, it's the Camp Foster Young Marines.

The Young Marines program is a volunteer organization offered by the United States Marine Corps for boys and girls ages 8 through 17. The program promotes physical fitness, self-discipline, leadership, teamwork and a healthy, drug-free lifestyle among youth.

The organization was founded in the United States in 1958 and was established in Okinawa in 1995. Female recruits were added to the ranks in 1975 and the organization has increased to more than 10,000 Young Marines around the world.

The mission of Young Marines is to positively impact America's future by providing quality youth development programs for children that nurtures and develops its members into responsible citizens, explained Cpl. Jeffrey McDowell, the Camp Foster Young Marines senior drill instructor.

The path to become a Young Marine starts with dedicating 13 Saturdays to attend Young Marine recruit training. During the training recruits perform various physical activities, learn the history of the Young Marines, and receive classes on leadership, close-order drill, teamwork, customs and courtesies, and the Marine Corps rank structure. In order for a Young Marine recruit to complete boot camp, they must also pass two written tests.

"These kids are all volunteers here on the island," said Sgt. Dexter White, the Camp Foster Young Marines commanding officer. "They sacrifice every Saturday to better themselves."

Upon completion of recruit training, the Young Marines will embark on an adventure that will benefit not only themselves but also have a positive impact on their peers as well, according to White. They will earn rank as they increase in physical fitness, show leadership capability and initiative.

In order to earn the next rank, a Young Marine must show the willingness to strive for more, White explained. Once a Young Marine attains the rank of noncommissioned officer, they will be taught how to give classes on topics such as drug, tobacco and alcohol awareness.

"When a Young Marine gets promoted to NCO, they are expected to know things such as land navigation, drill and public speaking," White said. "Just like the Marine Corps - we award more responsibility to each of them once they have demonstrated the ability to work beyond their limits."

One Young Marine feels the organization has helped him achieve more than the average person his age.

"I joined this program to become more disciplined," said Young Marine Cpl. Calen Wood. "Young Marines has given me the opportunity to learn about things that I would not learn anywhere else. Most of my friends play video games on Saturdays and I would rather spend my Saturdays doing this."

Parents are always providing positive feedback about their children, McDowell explained.

"I definitely recommend it for every child," said Carrie McGuigan, the mother of a Young Marine recruit. "I signed my son up because I think it will build his self-confidence tremendously. This program brings out the best in these children."

For more information on Young Marines, visit the program's official Web site at http://www.youngmarines.com.

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