Marine recruits salute to future success

Matthew Mulcahy

At the San Jose Military Entering Process Station, newly recruited Marine corps trainees stand in rows with their right hands in a salute, reciting the Oath of Enlistment in unison. Among the nervous but excited new group of trainees stands Oliver Bagshaw and Andrea DeLeon, ready to take their next step after high school. Although most seniors will be headed off to college, for these two seniors, graduation holds a different path: serving in the Marines for the United States over the next four years.

DeLeon will be sent to South Carolina for the Women’s United States Marine Corps Recruit Training, commonly known as Marine boot camp, on July 16, while Bagshaw will head to San Diego for the Men’s Marine boot camp on Oct. 8.

United States Marine Corps recruit senior Oliver Bagshaw wearing his official Marine Corps t-shirt in front of The Eagle, Globe and Anchor official emblem of the Marine Corps.
United States Marine Corps recruit senior Oliver Bagshaw wearing his official Marine Corps t-shirt in front of The Eagle, Globe and Anchor official emblem of the Marine Corps.

Bagshaw initially started to consider serving the military late into his sophomore year. Early into his senior year, Bagshaw was on the verge of committing to the Army until his mother encouraged him to contact a Marine recruiter. After speaking with the recruiter, he quickly solidified his decision to enlist in the Marines.

“It was the first time a recruiter has talked to me about how they will make me a better person by instilling good values into me, rather than trying to make me commit by giving me money factors that will go in, [specifically] how they will help me in college,” Bagshaw said.

DeLeon also initially considered serving with the Army but was encouraged by her stepfather to reach out to the Marines. DeLeon met in October with a Marine recruit at the military recruiting office in Novato. She was impressed by the Marine recruiter whose confidence resonated with her, helping her to decide to serve with the Marines following the conversation.

“He said I have that attitude that most Marines have, that kind of cocky attitude, that don’t-give-a-f*** about anything. I was like, ‘I like you guys,’” DeLeon said.

However, both recruits are anxious to endure the notorious physical and mental challenges associated with the Marine Corps’ boot camp.  

“I like the idea of having people push me to my limits to see where I could go. High school was challenging with schoolwork and things like that, but I haven’t been physically or mentally challenged to the point where they break me. I feel like boot camp is going to be a different level,” DeLeon said.

DeLeon and Bagshaw have been preparing for boot camp with a training group of eight to nine Marin County Marine recruits for a few months. Staff Sergeant McClinton, who initially lead the optional two-day-a-week training program, has since left Bagshaw in charge of conducting a majority of the workouts because he can complete 26 pull-ups, the most of the group. However, DeLeon doesn’t let this feat dampen a little fair competition between the two.

“I like to compete with [Oliver]. He doesn’t like it. I always tell him, ‘I want to see you struggle because every time I see you, you aren’t struggling at all. So I’m going to make you struggle. I’m going to break you.’ He says, ‘I want to see if you can,’” DeLeon said.

Being the only female in the training group, DeLeon initially struggled to keep up with the males during the exercises. This challenge has driven her to work even harder to achieve heightened physical goals and to compete alongside her male counterparts. DeLeon can now complete 50 pushups in two minutes, even though she could not complete any before her training began.

“I keep thinking that I can’t give up. I can’t give up. I have to do this for my [Marine] family. Because if you give up, you are letting everybody else down. If I stop doing this, everybody is going to be disappointed in me. I don’t like that feeling,” DeLeon said.

United States Marine Corps recruit senior Andrea DeLeon poses in an official Marine Corps t-shirt with an American flag draped over her shoulders.
United States Marine Corps recruit senior Andrea DeLeon poses in an official Marine Corps t-shirt with an American flag draped over her shoulders.

DeLeon has noticed a large gender disparity between the amount of young men and woman looking to serve with the Marines. Along with her career aspirations to be a FBI agent, DeLeon is fascinated with the idea of becoming a Marine recruiter. She likes the idea of inspiring high schoolers to join because of the self confidence that comes from the process of becoming a Marine. She additionally thinks that as a female recruiter, she could encourage potential future female recruits to join the Marines.

“I want an actual female who went [to boot camp] to tell me about their experience because guys and girls are different. I’m trying to foster those connections with the females instead of the guys. I want to be that role model for the females who want to become Marines or join the armed forces branches,” DeLeon said.

Bagshaw is looking forward to boot camp’s mentally and physically challenging training requirements. DeLeon noted her anxiety to take on one of the most daunting tasks of boot camp: the gas chamber training. During the task, recruits wear chemical gear while enduring the short-term pain of breathing the compound 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, a main chemical component of tear gas.

According to Bagshaw, his active lifestyle, filled with training and backpacking with 40-pound packs, has ultimately prepared him for boot camp and will assist in surpassing mental and physical daunting tasks such as the gas chamber.

“It’s something that will challenge me, but it’s nothing that I’m super super worried,” Bagshaw said. “It’s like football practice. It’s hard, but it’s fun.”

DeLeon is looking forward to completing the boot camp, where she will graduate from her status as a Marine recruit and earn her official Marine title. DeLeon will be the first female to graduate from high school in her family. She is looking to further this accomplishment to set an example for her younger cousins and younger brother.

“Most of my uncles and my mom didn’t finish school. Most of them didn’t even go to school,” DeLeon said. “So knowing that I’m able to graduate high school with my diploma makes my mom happy.”

Bagshaw is currently enlisting with the intent to work with an air crew unit. Part of the job requires him to learn the mechanics of helicopters and planes if these air carriers are shot at or break down.

“[I want to be] able to look back and feel like I’ve done something besides just work like a 9-5 job my whole life. I’ll have stories to tell when I’m older. I also have family [who were in the military]. It’s just who I am basically,” Bagshaw said.

VIDEO: United States Marine Corps recruit senior Oliver Bagshaw commits to being a Marine recruit by reciting the Oath of Enlistment at the Military Entering Processing Station in San Jose. Video courtesy of Marine Corps Staff Sergeant McClinton.