Moving through the ranks: Gavin Blum’s commitment to the Marines

Stella Bennett

While many Redwood students have their alarms set for 7:30 a.m. and race to school to navigate the crowded parking lot, former Redwood student Gavin Blum has already been awake since 4 a.m. and is finishing a drill before heading to class at a combat training base. 

In March 2022, Blum made the decision to join the Marines, signing up for their Delayed Entry Program (D.E.P.). Within D.E.P., training can be postponed for one year, but Blum was eager to join as soon as possible. 

Taking a break from training, Blum sits with other Marines. (Photo courtesy of Gavin Blum)

“I decided I wanted to get to bootcamp faster because I was really anxious to start. I looked into graduating early and found out that it is not too hard [to do so], you just need to take a couple of extra classes, so I did that,” Blum said. 

On December 5, 2022, Blum finally got the green light to begin bootcamp, which was a significant transition from going to school every day. 

“[Bootcamp] is completely different [from high school.] The hardest part was being away from my family and friends,” Blum said. “Mentally, it had its ups and downs. Like the good moments are what I remember. … When I finished training and earned the [completion] title, that was the best moment.”

Lachlan Skolnick, Blum’s close friend of seven years, also initially struggled to adjust to his friend leaving for bootcamp, but ultimately believes it was a beneficial choice.

“It was weird not having him around because I would always walk home with him, so it was definitely pretty odd,” Skolnick said. “For the whole time that I have known [Blum], he has always talked about how he doesn’t like sitting in a classroom and being told what to do by a teacher. I think being in the Marines will [provide] a much more active role for him where he doesn’t have to sit around all day.”

Blum currently resides at Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry, where he is partaking in his Marine Combat Training (MCT), to gain extensive knowledge on infantry — an occupational field that focuses on ground forces and close combat. After the course is completed, Blum will be assigned his official job — which he hopes will be within a sector of infantry —  an embassy security guard.

At the beginning of this process, Blum met his recruiter, Sergeant Cameron Kirschner, provided him with insight into the possibilities of his next couple of years and helped him adjust to this new lifestyle.

“For me especially, working with a recruiter isn’t like buying something. You don’t just walk into our office to sign a paper, go off to bootcamp and never talk to that recruiter again. It’s a continuous transformation because the Marine Corps is a family so our biggest thing is keeping up with [our recruits] and making sure they are successful. Whether they are having hard times or great times, we always look out for each other,” Kirschner said. 

Wearing his uniform, Blum stands with his brother and cousin after the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. (Photo courtesy of Gavin Blum)

From the beginning of enlistment, Blum had an expectation of the tight community in the Marines as described by Kirschner, which is one of his main motives to join, and he was not disappointed. 

“It’s really easy to make friends here. We are all going through very similar situations, the same struggles and the same routines. I’ve made really good friends in a really short amount of time,” Blum said. 

Kirschner had a similar experience to Blum in the Marines. 

“Considering that [the Marines] is the smallest branch, you really get a sense that you are working for a team that needs to support each other,” Kirschner said. “For instance, while stationed in Washington D.C., I wanted to move. Ordinarily, if you work on the job, the job comes first. [However], my commanding officer knew that I was moving and had all the Marines in the office help me get all my household goods to D.C. For me, that goes a long way and a reason why I re-enlisted is that sense of caring for one another, no matter their rank. It’s a brotherhood.”

Kirschner and Blum both see the benefits of the Marines in the community but also believe they have great programs to propel future interests. 

“There are a lot of ways to get your education [in the Marines], whether it is a bachelor’s degree or your second master’s degree. The most predominant scholarship we have is something called the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship and that is a scholarship for $180 thousand from over 70 plus colleges, including a lot of University of California campuses here in California. This is a scholarship set up to make someone a Marine Corp officer so after they receive their bachelor’s degree, they can begin their career as a Marine Corp officer with no debt,” Kirchner said. 

Blum plans to take advantage of these scholarship opportunities in a couple of years once he finishes his five-year contract with the Marines.

“I didn’t really know if I wanted to go to college [right out of high school] and I wanted to earn going to college. My parents have already done so much for me so I wanted to earn it myself, so I will eventually go to college,” Blum said.

Blum recalls that he was not ready to go to college immediately after completing high school.

Posing with Kirschner, Blum holds a B.B. gun while in the Marines recruitment office. (Photo courtesy of Cameron Kirschner)

“I feel like some people go to college just to go to college, not for a specific reason. There is no problem with that but people will look down on you if you are not attending some really good college,” Blum said. “There’s definitely a stigma about it and it shouldn’t affect your decision and what you want to do with your life.”

Kirschner also recognizes this trend and believes that alternative paths can be beneficial to individuals. 

“[Attending college] is the standard expectation; if you aren’t going to college, you are thought of as unsuccessful, which is a great shame,” Kirschner said. “College is great, but alternative paths are [too], such as the military where you can get it done for free and faster. When it comes to education, there is a lot of stuff that is overseen… Having the freedom to find yourself and your passion is very vital to anyone being successful and that is the freedom the military has provided me.”

Blum feels that his decision to join the military was right for him, and Kirschner believes he makes an ideal Marine.

“[Blum] cares about the welfare of others, he cares that tasks get accomplished and that missions get completed. Another great quality of [Blum] is his openness to try new things,” Kirschner said. “The Marine Corps is not an easy thing and, to successfully be a Marine, as I call it, is a superpower. [Blum] is going to go a long way; he is extremely bright and extremely charismatic.”