Robertson joined nearly 300 other enlistees for a day of team building and competition at Recruiting Station Louisville’s annual Poolee Field Meet at Big Bone Lick State Park in Union, Ky.
The field meet is designed to instill a sense of teamwork, pride and esprit-de-corps in poolees before they ship to recruit training. The poolees competed in various team relays and competitions, like crunches, dead-hang pull-ups and close order drill.
It also gives poolees a small taste of what life is like as a recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.
To ensure the experience was realistic, two Marine Corps drill instructors were brought in to help ‘motivate’ the poolees.
“What are you looking at? Start paying attention! Oh, we want to play games, do we?” blared a female drill instructor at a poolee a few feet from where Robertson was standing with his fellow Louisville-area poolees during a set of daily seven exercises.
“I’m just glad I didn’t have them in my face today,” said Robertson, a senior at Male High School in Louisville. “They’re not somebody I want in my face.”
Robertson was one of the lucky ones who only had to endure the DI’s intensity from a distance – not up close and personal. But if he had been singled out, he knows it’s all part of the long road to becoming a Marine.
“When I saw that commercial and that guy in the blue uniform with the saber, I was just like, ‘That’s what I want to do,'” he said. Robertson, 18, like many of the poolees, enlisted between his junior and senior years of high school, and ships to boot camp following graduation.
The drill instructors were Staff Sgt. Hector Ortiz, Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion; and Sgt. Lecia Tienda of 4th Recruit Training Bn., both from MCRD Parris Island, S.C.
Their mission: to turn up the heat on RS Louisville’s future Marines.
Poolee Billy Jo McClain, 22, of Frankfort, who enlisted just day’s prior to the field meet, said she had no idea what to expect at the field meet.
By day’s end her desire to become a Marine had been reinforced.
“I know it’s just a little taste and it’s not going to prepare me 100-percent for when I go, but it’s getting me there,” said McClain, who ships to Parris Island Oct. 15. “This is definitely for me. I’m ready to go.”
While the poolees say the field meet has prepared them for boot camp, the drill instructors know better.
“Forming [at Parris Island] is 100 times worse because there’s always more than one of us,” said Tienda. “It’s fast paced and a lot of moving around. So the more they know now, the less stressful it’s going to be when they get there [Parris Island].”
Following the daily seven, led by the drill instructors, poolees ran an initial strength test – chin-ups, crunches and a mile and a half run.
Poolees also participated in a close order drill competition, graded by the drill instructors and an inflatable obstacle course relay. The day’s competition concluded with the Dizzy Izzy, a relay which requires competitors to race after spinning around 10 times with their forehead on a baseball bat.
In order to win, poolees had to use teamwork and work hand in hand with their recruiters to earn such titles as “Most Motivated,” “Highest IST” and “Best Overall.”
The drill instructors were impressed overall with what they saw from RS Louisville’s poolees.
“They seem really motivated and are really working together,” said Oritz.
“It seems the recruiters out here are really concerned about their poolees performance before they get to the island,” she said.
“I saw [drill instructors] around me, but I was trying to do everything right so they wouldn’t get on me,” said Richard Ceballos, 17, of Owensboro. “I was just trying to pay attention.”
Though he enjoyed the field meet, Ceballos, who ships to Parris Island next June, said he wasn’t pleased with his performance: he performed 75 crunches during the IST, instead of 100.
“It makes me want to work harder,” he said. “I’ve been working out, but not enough.”
By day’s end, the poolees are nearly exhausted as the field meet concludes. Scores were tallied and trophies awarded to the day’s top individual and team performers.
But there were no losers at this competition.
For the hundreds of RS Louisville poolees waiting to ship to Parris Island, the field meet provided the opportunity for them to excel. It also showed exactly why they have chosen to put themselves through 13 weeks of physically and mentally demanding military training.
The same qualities Robertson and the rest of RS Louisville’s poolees strived to show off at the field meet are the exact same qualities they hope to show off while pursuing the title, ‘Marine.’