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Midshipmen get glimpse of Marine life

7 Aug 2009 | Pfc. Jeremy Fasci

Marines with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, hosted the Marine Week portion of the month-long Career Orientation Training for Midshipmen program.

Each summer a unit hosts the program aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif.

CORTRAMID is a program designed to give college students enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program the opportunity to observe the different parts of Naval and Marine Corps life before they decide not only which armed service they would like to join, but also the type of job they would like to have in that branch, before they make their commitment to the program.

“We are here to introduce the midshipmen, both navy and Marine option, to the capabilities of the Marine Corps and what it does, and also give them a chance to see what’s expected of a junior officer in the Corps,” said Col. Sheila M. Q. Scanlon, the officer-in-charge of the Marine week portion of CORTRAMID and the commanding officer for the NROTC program at the University of Colorado.

Midshipmen come to Camp Pendleton to gain knowledge about different parts of the naval community, but gain much more when coming together as a unit with other NROTC members from across the country.

“The importance of teamwork and understanding how to motivate each other is the biggest thing we can learn from coming out here,” said Samuel C. Reisenfeld, a midshipman in the program from Old Dominion University.  “I know it’s only a month, but I’ve talked to a lot of the midshipmen that have never been out of their state so their morale gets real low and you have to keep their your heads high and different people respond to different kinds of motivation.”

Marine Week has become very popular among the groups of midshipmen that come through the CORTRAMID program because of the excellent hands-on training provided by the Marines from the 1st Marine Division.

“Marine week was my favorite just because it is lots of hands on training,” said Reisenfeld, 20, an international studies and language major from Fredericksburg, Va.  “You’re getting hands-on training with the other weeks, however, you’re not as immersed in the culture as you are out here in Marine week.  You’re formed up in a platoon, and if you have a billet or not, you’re going to have leadership opportunities.”

While the program is held each summer, the difficulties that come about seem to never change.

“They are out here with weapons, and we started the week with some of them never having fired a weapon before,” said Scanlon, 52, who is from Hilton, N.Y.   “We did simulation training on Monday, Tuesday we used blanks in the urban warfare center, Wednesday we did the infantry immersion training with simulation rounds and today live rounds, so the hope is that as we go from stage to stage, as they learn to crawl, walk, and run with ammunition, that they do it safely.”

Safety is one of the main focuses of the command.  When the students come out through the CORTRAMID program, instructors for the course have to find a way to communicate clearly and concisely with the potential officers.

“I think the most difficult thing about dealing with the midshipmen is just that they’re not really exposed to the military lifestyle,” said Cpl. Dan C. Leifson, an instructor for the CORTRAMID program and a rifleman with Company E, 1st LAR.  “Adjusting how we teach to explain things to them and making adjustments so they can see the bigger picture has been the hardest thing for me.”

This program is held during the summer months between the midshipmen’s freshmen and sophomore year to confirm their decision of committing to the NROTC program.

“The rules of the program are that they can drop on request anytime before their second year, so this is the time that they need to make up their mind, are they committed or not committed, to Navy ROTC,” said Scanlon.  “They come out here and see what we do, both on the Navy and Marine Corps side, go back to their universities and make a decision.  As soon as they start their second year and accept the money from the universities, they are committed to either service.”

Skills and knowledge that these young officers-in-training gain from being in the CORTRAMID program can have a lasting effect on their lives and their careers.

“They are learning a lot of hands on skills about the military, specifically the Marine Corps,” said Leifson, 21, from Park City, Utah.  “They are getting exposed to weapon systems, some infantry tactics and what we do as Marines which will better them for their experience in the military.”

Perhaps the most important thing, in combat or in garrison, in the Marine Corps, or any military branch, is taught to these midshipmen through the training.

“You learn to trust your buddies to your left and right,” said Reisenfeld.