Lejeune wows Yahoo! winners

9 Sep 2000 | Sgt. Bobbie Bryant

With warriors' faces and Marine hearts, the "Yahoo! Fantasy Career Day" winner Richard A. Castanet, 47, of Richmond, Va., teamed with son Christian, 17, and experienced a portion of Marine Corps life here recently.

After a brief stop at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., the pair boarded separate AH-1 Super Cobra helicopters and rode "shotgun" to Landing Zone Falcon here. They then switched rides and teamed back up in a CH-46 Sea Stallion for another 15 minutes in the sky.

The Castanets were then greeted by Marines from Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, who were camouflaged and at first hidden in the wood-line. The 3/8 Marines briefed the pair on the training exercise they were about to experience and provided a quick break for a meal ready- to-eat.

During this exercise, the father and son team maneuvered through a mobile assault course loaded with ambushes.  Each was armed with a machine gun.  Richard fired an M2.50-caliber and Christian a M240G mounted atop of a High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. 

The duo then experienced the bumps and splashes of the New River embarked on a riverine assault craft.

The Castanets were awarded this experience after Yahoo! and military officials entered into an agreement to conduct Fantasy Career Days for all five of the services. Marine Corps officials chose Richard from more than 300 applicants after he stated in an essay his long-time desire to be a Marine.

According to Capt. Steven M. O'Connor of Sheraton, Ore., and a media officer at Headquarters Marine Corps, Castanet's positive attitude and motivation set him apart from the rest.

"I had one month to get ready once I found out I won," Richard said.  "I am already in good shape because I work out at the gym four days a week and study martial arts two days a week.  I knew I needed to run, do pull ups and crunches to get ready."

Once chosen, the Marine Corps decided to show Castanet and his son some of the training an officer or enlisted Marine might encounter in the Marine Corps.

The Castanets visited other Marine bases earlier in the week. Stops were made at The Basic School in Quantico, Va., and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C. They also visited Marine Corps Air Station?s Beaufort, S.C., and New River, N.C.

In Parris Island, the pair stepped on the famous yellow footprints where they were met by a Marine Corps drill instructor.

"I got some of his lunch on my face," Richard said.  "I was fully prepared for it and still it shocked me!"

"I thought they were going to cut me some slack because I'm kind of a celebrity, but they didn't," Christian said.  "They made me feel real insignificant.  Once he was finished yelling at us, the drill instructor was the nicest guy in the world."

Christian said this experience has changed his view of the Marine Corps.

"I really didn't think about joining the Marine Corps before this, but I'm starting to look at it now. I think I would respect myself more. I am going to tell all my friends to join the Corps," he said with excitement.  

Richard said he knows now he could have been a Marine.

"I wanted to know if I had gone the other way, could I have done it and the answer is yes," said the Marine for a day.

The father and son Marine Corps team said of everything they experienced the Cobra ride was best.