Future marine aspires to join military band upon graduation

Sophia Bradley

Out of breath. Struggling to stay awake. Hunger pangs setting in. Alone, they would not survive, but together they are stronger. The Marine Corps prepares individuals to work as a unit and endure the rigors of war.

It is the longest training program out of all the branches of the military. In order to proceed into the training program, recruits must meet certain requirements: earn a high school diploma, pass a criminal background check, have no felony convictions, pass the Initial Strength Test, and earn a specific score on the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. 

Once the requirements are met, recruits move on to basic training, 13 weeks split into four phases, aimed to build up physical and mental skill sets.

Senior James Blackmer plans to join the Marines after graduating from high school at the end of May. Since the Marines was something he has always wanted to be a part of, he found it easy to choose when speaking to recruiters from the different military branches.

“Something about the Marine recruiters and how they carried themselves and did their job called to me,” James said. “There was something different that I liked about them.”

In mid July, James was sworn in to the Delayed Entry Program for the Marine Corps. It took about a week to actually get into MEPS, the Military Entrance Processing Station, but after that it was a simple three day process.

“Throughout the process, there was a physical evaluation from head to toe of my body and my mind,” James said. “We then had to do the paperwork, get my contract written up, and take my ASVAB test which tells them which jobs I’m eligible for.”

In order to complete the training, recruits must successfully pass The Crucible, a 54-hour exercise where recruits only get eight hours of sleep and must march about 40 miles. They receive limited food and must ration it themselves, making the exercise even more difficult. The entire training process has been said to be one of the hardest things former Marines have ever done in their life. 

“I’m most worried about The Crucible,” James said. “But it’s also what I’m most looking forward to finishing. It is the toughest part mentally and physically. Standing out there after finishing that hike and getting the reward, my EGA and being named as a Marine is something that I’m looking forward to so much.”

Apart from focusing on joining the Marines, James hopes to join the Marine Corps Band. As a member of the Viking band, he has learned how to play multiple woodwind instruments and contributes as a strong section member on each of those instruments. 

“I want to play alto saxophone and I’ve already submitted my first audition,” James said. “When I get my results from that, if I didn’t make it then I’m going to submit another audition until I do make it. Even if I don’t make it I still have a plan I can follow.”

Band member junior Aiden Monsivais has played with James since his freshman year and has seen what James has to contribute to the band.

“He has great enthusiasm and he tries to uplift people in his section,” Aiden said. “He’s also a fantastic player and an excellent marcher. He’s very good at bringing the energy in drive that some people don’t have into the band”

James always willingly helps out other band members in need and also brings great spirit into the band.

“He’s definitely helped me out a lot,” Aiden said. “Freshman year I was in his section, so he helped me learn how to march. He also helped me have some enthusiasm for the band because I wasn’t really sure how I felt about it freshman year; I probably wouldn’t be in leadership if it wasn’t for James.”

His directors, Breanna Osbourn and Laura Grems, and fellow band members have watched James grow both as a musician and as a person and are ready to see how James continues with music after graduating.

“James could easily use his musical skills to play in one of the Marine Bands anywhere around the country,” Osbourn said. “All of the military branches have also gone to having smaller genre-based groups as well, from hard rock to blue grass and James could have a lot of fun and success joining ensembles like that as well.”

Osbourn agrees that James’ hard work and dedication will help him accomplish great things in the future.

“James has a lot of natural talent but he also works hard to refine things that do not come easy,” Osbourn said. “Not only will that help him to become a stronger professional musician but it will also help him to become a strong and successful Marine. He will go as far as he chooses to go because he is that determined and I hope that all of those experiences are positive and safe along the way.”