Marine Corps Air Station Yuma Marines volunteered their weekend time with the Yuma Chapter of Young Marines, Nov. 2-3, for the purpose of teaching them how to be contributing and active members of their community.
While experienced Marines are always inclined to help younger Marines, the Young Marines program is a youth group that points kids in the direction of living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.
MCAS Yuma lends itself as a medium to accomplish this task, drawing upon different units to help out.
“The program gives these kids direction and helps them develop traits such as respect,” said Cpl. Peter Pritchard, one of the Young Marines volunteers and a native of Baton Rouge, La.
As the Young Marines program falls under the Marine Corps League, the curriculum seeks to instruct children on Corps ethos and traditions while encouraging them to stay above the influence to succeed in life. The active-duty volunteers make teaching this information that much easier because they are able to impart their personal knowledge onto the kids.
The active duty Marines teach the Young Marines discipline through military drill, military customs and courtesies and physical fitness on top of nutritional classes and drug abuse prevention.
“I get to help the kids, and they’re actually grateful,” said Pritchard. “Especially when the parents come up to thank me, that’s when I know I’m doing my job.”
Some Marine volunteers are fresh to the program. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Yuma’s first F-35 Lightening II squadron, recently adopted the Yuma chapter of the Young Marines and are committed to sharing their work and personal experiences to help strengthen the Yuma Young Marines program. Other Marines have invested more time in their commitment.
“My buddy got me into it,” said Cpl. Mitchell Majors, another Young Marines volunteer, who’s been involved with the group for two years. “He showed me the program and ever since then I’ve been coming out.”
Majors began volunteering when the Yuma chapter had only 10 kids or so. Since then, it’s expanded to approximately 30.
The most rewarding part of this is being able to build a rapport with the kids. They can come to me if they have any problems.
The particular excursion from Nov. 2-3 had the Maine volunteers teaching kids to correct each other if one was out of line. They also had the kids learn about Corps history, traditions and paintball.
Instructors, staff and kids alike headed to the paintball arena on station to bombard themselves with paint, and all emerged a bit tighter afterwards.
“It keeps them away from drugs, which is the main goal of the program,” Majors said.
The parents enroll their children for that reason, among others.
“It is rewarding to see them involved with the kids,” said Imelda Ballon, a parent of three children currently enrolled in the program. “The kids see the Marines as mentors, and they love it. If they didn’t do this job, who would’ve?”