How the Corps Makes Marines (P. 2)

July 21, 2011

Marine recruits in the Crucible (Defense Dept. photo)

John’s note — this is slightly edited REPOST from an earlier blog.  Our son PFC Tyler Kerezy is now at Ft. Leonard Wood, and will soon be entering Military Police Training with the USMC.

SAVANNAH, GA — Commitment. Courage. Honor.

Those are the characteristics that the U.S. Marine Corps instills in the 20,000 recruits who arrive each year at its Parris Island training facility. Along with nearly 60 other educators from Northern Ohio and Southern Michigan, I had an opportunity to visit Parris Island last January and see, first hand, how the Corps trains recruits.

“We Make Marines” is what the sign says at the entrance. Those three words summarize the intensive transformation that occurs to the young (most are 18 or 19) men and women who arrive here for 13 weeks of molding and shaping.

The Marines have been the “tip of the spear” for U.S. military action for nearly 100 years. Whether it was clearing out stubborn German opposition at Belleau Wood in 1918, removing the Japanese from Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa in World War II, or eliminating terrorist threats in Afghanistan today, our government leaders and Pentagon strategists have turned to the Marines time after time to win battles and protect our nation’s freedom.

In a “post modern” era when society seems to say that EVERYTHING is relative, the US Marines remain steadfast in their approach to training new recruits. A sentence from the Parris Island Graduation Ceremony program says it eloquently: “At the very time when a host of factors tend to undermine character development in society, Marines are facing an operational environment that requires stronger character and moral virtue.”

This statement correlates with the ever-more-complex missions of the Marines. Last year the USMC took the lead in the nation’s disaster relief efforts in Haiti. Travel to any US embassy around the world, and you’ll see Marines on guard. And of course, it is the Marines who are clearing out clusters of Taliban fighters and freeing provinces in Afghanistan from the draconian and ruthless evils of the terrorists.

Coming from about 50 different colleges and schools, those of us who educate saw how the Marines prepare and teach. Preparation is an important component in the “Leathernecks’” approach. Through careful recruiting, Major Greg Jones and his staff of about 80 Marines really live up to that old slogan of “a few good men (and women).” Through screening, questioning, testing (a great battery assessment called ASVAB) and long-term preparation, the local Marine recruiters weed out people who don’t belong in military service.

Drug screenings, challenging physical and mental training, and a frank ‘here’s what Boot Camp is like’ strategy removes some applicants from the “pool” of potential Marines.  But there’s a payoff: More than 90 percent of the recruits going to Parris Island now make it through the training process and become Marines. The intense preparation works.

A second successful strategy is the rigorous program. We got a first-hand view of how the Marines accomplish this.  Drill Sergeants, often working up to 16 hour days, continually indoctrinate their recruits.  The young men and women are “on the go” from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, undergoing very demanding physical and mental training to become Marines.    Shared hardship, mutual commitment, and teamwork all play a key role in the Boot Camp process. We witnessed recruits toiling away in squads of 16 men, collaborating and helping each other overcome an all-but-impossible series of obstacles in a near-graduation culminating challenge called The Crucible. 

Before getting to this point, the recruits have mastered many swimming and water survival techniques, learned how to be an expert rifleman, engaged in hand-to-hand combat successfully, and navigated many other physical and intellectual challenges and tests.

We had an opportunity to observe one drill sergeant provide us with a “practice motivation” of how the process works.  “A Marine is a person who is characterized by having the highest of virtues,” Staff Sgt. Hector Roman said. “He strives to be the very best that he does….Discipline and spirit are the hallmarks of a Marine….give 100% at all times….treat every Marine and recruit with courtesy and respect…never lie and cheat…never steal….work hard to stretch your body, your spirit, and your mind.”

Marine Corps training represents an amazing commitment on the part of these recruits. And it is the recruits who are the third part of this transformation process.  They WANT to become better, more disciplined, and part of something much bigger than themselves.  The recruits devote significant time learning and incorporating Core Values into their lives. It’s an integral part of Boot Camp.

They voluntarily surrender cell phones, video games, computers and free time for an intense physical, mental and emotional training regime lasting 13 weeks. These young men and women willing give up just about all of their personal comforts throughout  Boot Camp, for the right to then invest three or four more years of their lives serving on the freedom’s front lines.

After Boot Camp, it’s on to even more training and education.  The Marine Corps has more than 300 occupational specialties (called MOS), and some can take six months or longer to master. USMC’s generals and planners believe that it’s better to bleed in training and preparation. That way there are many fewer lives lost on the battlefield.

For me, the Educators’ Workshop was more than a powerful learning experience. It’s personal.

My father was a Marine, and he did his boot camp at Parris Island in 1952. His older brother, my Uncle Paul, served in the Marines for 25 years. He fought in the “island hopping” campaigns against the Japanese in the Pacific War, as later saw in combat in Korea. He began at Parris Island too.

My son is also a Marine. I had the joy of returning to Parris Island to see his graduation from Boot Camp with Plt. 2018 in March.

So, if you ever become a little unsure of what those words – Commitment, Courage, Honor – mean in the year 2011, you can find out in a hurry. Ask anyone who is proud to claim the title of United States Marine.

Cleveland media’s REAL sports hero

July 19, 2011
Mark Zimmerman

Mark at the start of the Buckeye Trail 50K

We’ve all seen the television reporters and anchors do “stunts” for ratings or to help promote an event.

For example, local reporters will go flying with the Blue Angels around Labor Day.

Mark Zimmerman is different. What he accomplished on Saturday earns him the a rightful title, el héroe, at an orphanage in El Salvador.

Mark is the “main man” doing the morning show at WCRF, 103.3 FM, Moody Radio Cleveland. But on Saturday, he ran and climbed 31.2 miles in the Buckeye Trail 50K.

Not bad for a 50-something guy whose only previous competitive running experience was a single 5-mile event.

“What Mark did was unbelievable,” says Gale Connor of Seven Hills, a fellow competitor and a breast cancer survivor, Gale has run in hundreds of road races over the past nine years. “”He was ‘cooked’ for much of the way back, but he just kept on going.  It was absolutely amazing.”

Mark’s navigated the challenging course in 8 hours, 42 minutes. (See web site below for details.) Competitive marathoners and mountain runners from across the Midwest came to this event, and completing the race ahead of Mark. It was love – Love and Hope Children’s Home – that propelled him to the finish line.


 Mark has made four visits to Love & Hope Children’s Home, an orphanage that began at a garbage dump in 2001. A Northeast Ohio family on a short-term mission trip to El Salvador discovered several children living there. Abused, abandoned or neglected, they had no place to go.

“Like many ministries in recent years, Love & Hope has gone through a difficult time financially,” Mark explains. “Those who love the ministry have been thinking ‘outside the box’ to make sure that the funds need for the care of the kids that are there. The orphanage truck was breaking down a lot — becoming a money pit — so I came up with the idea of calling attention to this need, and wanted to be a little more ‘creative’ in getting help to meet the need.”

That need helped plant a seed.  So did a dog.

In 2009, Mark and his wife welcomed a new puppy into their “empty nest” home. Mark began taking long walks with Benny, a Border Collie/Australian Cattle Dog. To burn off the puppy’s energy, Mark and Benny made ever-lengthening sojourns. “As I walked longer and increased speed, I was losing weight and getting in better shape,” he says.

Next came the encouragement of a friend, distance runner Nick Billock. A Navy lieutenant (Jg.) now deployed in Afghanistan,  Nick had completed some 100-mile endurance races and had navigated the Buckeye Trail 50K three times.

“One day last summer, hiking and thinking about Nick and the needs at Love and Hope, I asked myself what if I could do something big,” Mark recalls. “I set up a 21-mile walking test on the Towpath trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park to see how my body would react. Once I did that, and I kept a pace of 14 minutes per mile, I knew I had a chance to do something like the BT 50K.”

Next, Mark had lunch with Nick and discussed the idea. Nick not only encouraged Mark, but became his unofficial coach for the endeavor, first from Northeast Ohio and later from Afghanistan.

So from all this, Mark hatched the idea of completing a major race as a fund raiser for Love & Hope Children’s Home. After consulting with the orphanage’s governing board, he set a goal of raising $10,000 to obtain a “newer” truck for the orphanage.


 Mark began training in earnest for the BT50K about two months. Usually working with Benny, his routine took him to as much as 15 miles a day and covered the entire route. He got day-to-day guidance and advice from Lt Billock through email and Skype calls.  Mark also involved his WCRF Moody Radio Cleveland listeners, asking them to pray for him and to sponsor his efforts.

 As spring turned into summer, Mark put in the “hard work” of preparing for the BT50K, which is classified as an ultra-marathon type event. The route has ups and downs of more than 5,000 total feet as runner traverse from Brecksville to Peninsula, then back again.

In all kinds of weather, Mark continued training.  He picked up two guys who played important roles on race day.  Jim Billock, Nick’s brother, went out with Mark and helped provide him encouragement and support for the first several miles on the Buckeye Trail. Gary Klubnik, whose son Justin is in El Salvador serving at Love and Hope orphanage, met Mark on the trek home and ran the final miles with him.

One vital aspect of Mark’s preparation was his prayer life. “I couldn’t do this on my own,” Mark told his WCRF radio audience on the Monday after the BT50K.  “If I did this on my own, I would have failed. God was sustaining me, especially at the end of the race.”


 Mark averaged about 14.5 minute miles on the first half of the BT50K, but slowed to about 18 minutes on the second half of the course. “I hit Jello on the return,” he admits. “Gary was there for me, running by me, encouraging me, and keeping me going.”

It wasn’t a sprint to the finish chute for Mark. But he was still moving, and the purpose of the race had been achieved.  Donors have pledged to give more than 104% of the $10,000 Mark sought to raise for Love and Hope.

On the morning show Monday, Mark called attention to the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 9.  He cited verses 24 and 25, where Paul compares the Christian faith to running in a race. At time, believers in Christ must endure hard work, grueling preparation, and self denial.

For eight hours and 42 minutes on a hot and humid Saturday, Mark’s preparation and sacrifice came to fruition. He’s not an athlete or a TV personality, but he’s a star for a couple of dozen children in El Salvador today.

 To donate:

For more on the Buckeye Trail 50K:

YES! Tribe still @ 90 wins in 2011

July 4, 2011

Chief WahooAbout 45 days ago, I went out “on a limb” and predicted that the Cleveland Indians would win 90 games, be in contention for the American League Central Division pennant, and get into the 2011 American League playoffs.

On July 4, the Cleveland Indians are in first place in the AL Central with a 44-38 record.

Who would have guessed that on April 1?  April 15? May 1?

With July 4 being the traditional “midway” point in the season, I’m sticking with my prediction. The Indians will win about 90 games this year, will be in the playoff “hunt” until the very end of the season, and – somehow – get into the playoffs.


…If we don’t have any more major injuries to overcome. It would be helpful if Shin-Soo Choo gets back in mid-August and is in mid-season form right away.

…If we play well against our AL Central competitors, especially in August and September.

Look at the pitching.  Look at the schedule. Look at the contenders in the AL Central. You too might reach the same conclusion.

Analyze it one portion at a time:

PITCHING – The Tribe has the second best bullpen (ERA-wise) in the American League, and its starters are pretty solid.  If Fausto Carmona can come around and improve in his starts, if the Indians catch an injury “break” for a change once Alex White returns, and if the other starters stay solid, they are right there at the end of the season. There are some bothersome things with the starter (Mitch Talbot lately can’t seem to stem the tide when an opposing team scores a run), but Carmen Carrasco, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin have been anchors in the rotation. Carrasco deserves strong consideration as an addition to the AL All Stars if one of the pitchers selected can’t go due to injury.

SCHEDULE – Cleveland has 42 home games remaining, 25 of them against AL Central opponents With a 24-14 home record already, it’s reasonable to assume that the Tribe should win 26 or 27 of these games. There are 38 away games remaining. If Cleveland wins 18 or 19 of these, it gets the Tribe to 88 to 90 victories on the season. What’s more, 15 of the Tribe’s non division games are against under .500 teams and 28 games are against division opponents with sub-.500 records.

Now, look even closer at the schedule. Cleveland has completed its “long distance” away games, but Minnesota, Detroit, and Chicago all have at least one West Coast trip remaining on their slates. The schedule seems to favor the Indians.

CONTENDERS – Terry Pluto’s column in yesterday’s Plain Dealer really spelled out the prospects for the Tigers and White Sox well. Chicago has better pitching and more hitting than Detroit, although the Tiger have perhaps the best starter in the show in Justin Verlander.

Those “IFs” – Cleveland’s chances to be in the post-season get better if:

Orlando Cabrera continues his hot hitting streak.  Cabrera knows playoff baseball, having been with the Cincinnati Reds last season. He, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and a couple of other hitters (C-IB Carlos Santana and 3B call-up Lonnie Chisenhall) have to get hot.

Lately – Some friends have chided me about my May 20 prediction I wrote at that time knowing that Cleveland was facing the toughest part of its schedule from then through July 6. But after the Yankees leave town, only nine of the Tribe’s remaining 76 games are against teams currently in first place. It matters very little if the Indians go out and find another quality hitter, and I’d oppose giving away any great young talent to “rent a bat” for two months of this season. Manager Manny Acta believes in this team, which it appears will grow “younger” with a couple more call-ups from AAA as the season continues.  We should have faith too.  The talent here can compete for the World Series in 2013 or 2014, so let’s be patient.

MOST FITTING – Thee is only one person who both earned the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  It’s Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller, who’s being honored at the Indians vs. Yankees game tonight.

GREAT MOVE by the Cleveland Indians. Nothing could be more appropriate than remembering Cleveland’s greatest pitcher on the 4th of July. Some players say their proudest accomplishment is making the Hall of Fame. Not Bob Feller. The eight battle stars and five campaign ribbons he earned on the USS Alabama during four years of World War II meant more to Feller. Before you fire up that grill today, pay tribute to Feller and the millions like him who made our nation’s freedom possible.

FINALLY — Remember that comments about Broadview Heights politics are not at: