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Marine Corps Recruit Depot opens graduations back up to the public

Ceremonies will be more festive at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot as families are welcomed back onto the San Diego base to watch their new Marines graduate.

Starting April 22, Marines will be able to invite two family members to their graduation, a welcome break to the lesser fanfare of the last year where families and friends could only watch virtually.

“It will be a lot more lively on the depot,” said Capt. Martin Harris, spokesman for the base that each year hosts more than 40 graduations. “It’s always nice and inspiring to meet people and veterans who share the same values we do.”

Graduations will move from Friday to Thursday and family day will be rolled into the Thursday graduation. Base officials will screen guests for COVID-19. Once on base, they can tour base facilities such as restaurants, the Marine Corps Exchange and the command museum. Masks are required.

“We are extremely proud to have families return to the depot for graduations,” said Brig. Gen. Ryan P. Heritage, the commanding general of MCRD and Western Recruiting Region. “We look forward to welcoming more families in the near future, as more individuals receive the vaccination each day. Measured and prudent steps forward will ensure that we continue to protect the entry-level training pipeline and begin to safely reopen.”

Despite restrictions to limit capacity, recruit officials haven’t seen a lull in those wanting to become Marines.

Each platoon entering training is first quarantined either on or off base for 14 days. They are housed two to a room and can’t leave it. All their activities, including meals, exercise and studies, are done in the room.

When the quarantine is over, recruits get uniforms, their haircuts and start boot camp.

While interest remained high in those wanting to serve, logistics of shipping them to the depot became more difficult because they had to be spaced out more to meet social distance requirements.

Recruiting also shifted from in-person efforts to virtual. Recruiters had to shift to a new normal, moving away from what they’ve done for generations.

“We took as many as we could based on restrictions,” Harris said. “We never stopped shipping and continued on to maximum capacity. We’ve been able to increase that as social-distancing requirements changed.”

Compared to a typical year in which the depot sees a spike in the number of recruits in the summer, last year’s companies were steadier with a constant flow of about 300 to 400 people in a company.

The pandemic may have also given the Marine Corps a new opportunity to find those who might not previously considered military service, officials said.

“The last year has been introspective for a lot of people,” Harris said. “These are the times people make decisions to better themselves. You find out a lot about yourself when you’re struggling. That lends well to an organization such as ours. As people assess their lives, they can find a new purpose.”

But, Harris said those who join the Marines are typically not looking for a job.

“This is not something people do to get a paycheck,” he said. “Maybe it’s security or being part of an organization with a long-standing history. We’re not getting people because they’re out of work. It’s not an easy process and it takes a lot of commitment.”

Source: Orange County Register

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