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Marine recruits train on Long Island

Lance Cpl. Greg Knox, of Sea Cliff, leads

Lance Cpl. Greg Knox, of Sea Cliff, leads Marine Corps poolees in an afternoon exercise session. The recruits gather once a week — or more — to train for boot camp. (Jan. 17,. 2013) Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Here come the Marines.

Jogging in lockstep, carrying their flag, chanting their cadences . . . "mota . . . mota . . . got a lot of motivation . . . " they advance. Not up a hill, not on to the beach, but across an obstacle nearly as intimidating:

Route 107 in Hicksville during rush hour.

This is life for the Long Island Marine recruit. In a part of the country that lacks a heavy military presence or culture, and where most high school graduates are expected to go to college, not into combat, you need plenty of "mota-vation" to come out on a Thursday night in January, run laps until you drop and do push-ups on the cold ground.

"We know these kids usually have a lot of options," said Gunnery Sgt. Trevor Barrett, a recruiter. "We want the ones who really want to do it."

Whether the motive is patriotism or cool uniforms, the 20 young men and women, ages 17-24, who brave the winter cold really want to. They are the latest group of "poolees" from the Marines' Hicksville recruiting substation, one of 12 in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

"Poolees" are recruits who have entered the Marines' Delayed Entry Program. They have been sworn in, but are not yet being sent to Parris Island, S.C., for recruit training, or boot camp.

"It's very rare that anyone signs up and gets shipped out the next day, like you used to see in the movies," said Lt. Timothy Irish, a Marine public affairs officer based in Garden City.

The Hicksville poolees train together up to twice a week, often on the muddy track of a nearby middle school. The first one around the track -- indeed, the first one at almost every exercise they perform, which includes calisthenics and team drills -- is the lone female in the group: Lily Banhegyesi, 17, of Baldwin, who is also the most gung-ho of the recruits. She will travel to Parris Island, where all female Marine recruits train, after her high school graduation this summer.

The Marine trainers who supervise the workouts have rewarded her with the honor of carrying the unit's flag, known as the guidon, during the workout.

Most of the Hicksville poolees will likely head south by the end of the summer. During that time, between swearing in and shipping out, they train to take the mandatory Initial Strength Test, which includes stomach crunches -- a minimum of 44 within 2 minutes -- pull-ups, arm curls and a 11/2 mile-run, which male recruits must finish within 13 minutes, 30 seconds, female recruits in 15 minutes.

Last year, the Long Island substations recruited 433 young men and women into the Marine Corps, which was established in 1775 and also has a boot camp in San Diego.

What makes a girl from Baldwin join the few, the proud, the Marines?

"9/11, sir," Banhegyesi replied. "I was young when it happened, but I wanted to fight for my country."

For Justin Vazquez, 17, of Levittown, the desire to become a Marine was based on something else.

"The respect they get. I wanted that."

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