MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
A group of teenage girls overtook an Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune June 1. They took control of several weapons and shot them into faraway targets feeling the recoil from each shot and hearing the din of the rounds launching from their weapon.
None of the girls looked fearful or anything other than excited to have the opportunity to play with the big guns and Marines from the base.
The girls were there with Wilderness Way Girls Camp and visited the base to explore the military lifestyle and some of its history. The group was made up of young teens and was excited to visit “real-life Marines.”
Cpl. Christina Hataway, an armory custodian with Headquarters and Support Battalion and Lance Cpl. Camille Harvey-Reyes, a company clerk with Company B in the same battalion, welcomed the girls and walked them through handling the wide variety of weapons.
“It was great being able to be an influence on girls who may not have the best influences in their lives,” said Hataway.
Harvey-Reyes said she was impressed by the level of motivation shown in the young girls and their drive to be in the Marine Corps.
The girls came from many backgrounds and made some mistakes in their lives, said Sharita King a counselor with the program.
“They’re looking to get their lives turned around,” said King.
The program makes the outdoors a classroom, where the campers can learn about themselves and develop the tools they need to build a better future for themselves. They camp, build fires, and take fieldtrips to explore many places, gaining a wide swatch of experiences in which to plot their goals. They are exposed to a variety of mentors, which now include Hataway and Harvey-Reyes, who can show them they can go as far as they want.
“They love meeting people who are in the military who have experiences to share and especially women who can share the knowledge about what it takes to be in the military,” said King.
Hataway and Harvey-Reyes were there throughout the girls’ trips to answer any questions. They talked to the girls about the military experience but also took the time to show them proper weapons handling and techniques giving them encouragement and guidance as the girls sighted in on the targets.
A girl with a handgun smiled at the end of the session as she shot a tight group right in the head of the target.
“That’s better than a lot of Marines who come through here,” an ISMT staff member told her.
However, it wasn’t just about shooting. The girls learned about the traits necessary to wear the uniform of a Marine.
“They’re learning what it takes to be in the military,” said King. “They’re learning about the character traits needed to be a service member.”
The girls will be in the program for up to two years. They will eat and sleep with a group of girls who serve as a microcosm of society. Through the program they face the consequences of each action, if they refuse to cook, or forget a tent they will have to deal with the cost of each decision, along with their group.
“You see a lot of the consequences of selfishness when you live in a group,” said King. “They also get to know each other very well. They get to know a lot about how people work, and they always have a peer to turn to.”
No two girls are in the same stage of the program in the order to give the girls other members to look up to.
Some of the girls in the group aim to join the military in the future and are building lives for themselves. Experiencing MCB Camp Lejeune gave them the opportunity to separate fact from fiction and to see Marines for what they are.
“They’re walking away with a different sense of what it’s like in the military,” said Melissa Muschina, a chief counselor with the program. “They’re seeing military members are friendly.”
They also found new people to look up to.
“A lot of the girls are coming from family situations where they don’t have a lot of positive role models,” said King. “I think it’s a big thing for the girls coming here, it shows them there are women out there who made positive decisions. They have to work hard and have discipline, but there’s hope - and something to strive for.”