SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA --
Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit visited students in southwest Virginia as part of the MEU’s Community Outreach Program Nov. 5.
The event allowed Fork Union Military Academy and Hargrave Military Academy students to interact and learn more about the Marine Corps.
Even though the schools provide a military learning environment, the Marines exceeded the student’s expectations.
“What we teach here and what we talk about is character,” said Harold Hofer, Hargrave’s Commandant. “If there is nothing else about a Marine, you can tell a Marine by his character. The cadets get to see that out here first hand. [The cadets] see a commitment not only to themselves and to each other and that’s what the Marines out here exemplify.”
“It’s pretty neat to see the display of how powerful our military is and how precise it is,” said Brian Zitterkopf, senior at Fork Union, of the 24th MEU’s descent on the school’s football field in CH-46E “Sea Knight,” CH-53E “Super Stallion,” UH-1N “Huey” and AH-1W “Cobra” helicopters. .
Once on the ground, pilots and infantryman allowed the students and visitors to get up close and personal with the latest Marine Corps equipment and weaponry.
“I was surprised to see the array of tools the military has, to think that 50 years ago there was one standard rifle with a machine gun and that was it,” said Zitterkopf. “And now we have all sorts of different stuff and protective gear.”
Marines also demonstrated their unique fighting style known as the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, a mixture of fighting techniques focused on combat effectiveness.
“I’ve given several classes to sailors and Marines before, but these kids had a lot more energy,” said Sgt. Daniel Callaway, MCMAP instructor, 24th MEU. “They were excited and interested in MCMAP, but they also wanted to know about the Marine Corps; and the MEU and how the MEU works.”
The MEU’s visit gave a physical perspective to the cadets of the military service that functions as the world’s 911 response force, and the Marines’ presence embodied the values and principles that instructors emphasize to their students. For some of the visiting Marines, it brought back memories of the first time they met ‘the few, the proud.’
“It made me feel like that was a unique group of men and I wasn’t quite sure that I would measure up,” remembered Lt. Col. Anthony Henderson, commanding officer, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. “With Marines the first thing you see is the uniform, which is very impressive, but if you take a moment and talk to the Marines the clear thing you get to see is that this is an individual with confidence who understands what his role is in a nation’s defense and he’s prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.”
Long after the Marines had climbed into their helicopters and flew away, their impression on the students remained.
“They’re very professional,” said Gilbert Enzor, a junior at Hargrave. “This is just amazing that they can come out here and show us what the Marines are all about.”