Blogs > Laura Kessel's blog

Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Marine dazzles his former classmates

Melanie Domzalski didn’t know Christopher Jaworski well when they were students at Nordonia High School in Macedonia.

But her eyes told the story of how much she thinks he’s changed since he completed boot camp Jan. 28 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina.

“He was laid back before,” she said. “Now he seems, like, more strict — better.”

The redshirt catcher on the Lakeland Community College women’s softball team looked Jaworski over Thursday when the new private led Domzalski and her teammates through a workout on campus.
“I can tell he grew up.”

When her coach, Judy Sargent, told Jaworski that Domzalski thinks he’s grown up, he nodded.
“I have. I have a lot,” he said. “Go to boot camp. It will work ... a lot.”

The June 2010 graduates didn’t take much time to reminisce as Jaworski and Staff Sgt. Robert Fertal led the team through a series of exercises designed to show the similarities between the life of a Marine and players on a sports team.

Fertal, in charge of the Mentor recruiting station on Mentor Avenue, took the lead, introduced Jaworski to the team and let him charge ahead with a list of warm-ups that recruiters use as training tools designed to get recruits ready for life at Parris Island.

Jaworski had them winded after a few exercises, leading them through 60 jumping jacks, 60 mountain climbers, 60 flutter kicks and 40 pushups before a one-mile run.

“I’m not used to being the one in the middle of the circle,” he said with a laugh when Fertal took over and explained a drill that would follow.

Jaworski met Sargent over lunch at Parris Island. Recruits were paired during the recent Educators Workshop with teachers from around Northeast Ohio who made the trip to see just what boot camp is like.
When Sargent learned Jaworski attended Nordonia, she asked him to work out her team when he returned home after basic training. Three Lakeland softball players are Nordonia graduates.

The soft-spoken Jaworski let Fertal take the lead, stepping in as a demonstration tool when necessary.
He wasn’t shy about his experiences in boot camp, however.

“It’s not as physically draining as I expected,” Jaworski said. “It was a lot of time in the classroom. We had more than 200 hours of class time.”

Jaworski said the time away from family and friends also wasn’t as hard as he expected.

“You do so much in the time you’re up that you don’t have time to think about being away,” he said.
Jaworski said he enlisted on Feb. 1, 2010, but didn’t leave for basic training until Halloween.

He was part of the delayed entry program, which helps the Marine Corps keep the number of active-duty participants to a steady 212,000 people.

He said he weighed the U.S. Army against the Marine Corps when he was ready to enlist, and opted for the Marines because he thinks they’re better trained and are more of a brotherhood.

“Everything you do, you do as a team,” he said.

Before he left for basic training, Jaworski said he stuck close to home.

“I did as much of nothing as I could,” he said. “I worked out Thursdays and Saturdays with the recruiters. I didn’t have a job, so once in a while I hung out with friends, and I just tried to stay out of trouble.”

Toward the end of Thursday’s practice, Lakeland’s players got a lesson in the Marine Corps way — accidentally.

Jaworski and Fertal took part in an intricate exercise called the Star Drill, in which the players take positions around the gym, simulating standing at home plate, first base, second base, shortstop and third base. They proceeded to move the ball around the “diamond” while running from station to station to complete an entire circle of the positions on the field.

The object is for no one to drop the ball, or disrupt the flow of the action. On the second to last throw, from third base to first base, Jaworski bobbled it, losing control.

Similar to Marines taking part in the grueling completion of boot camp known as The Crucible, the entire group had to start over after completing a lap around the gym as punishment.

Jaworski and Fertal joined them for the lap, then for the second try at the exercise, which the group successfully completed.

“Softball isn’t much different than that Marine mentality,” Sargent said. “It’s just a little less intense.”

Fertal then played a word game with the players, as he discussed winning, losing and what you can learn from both while respecting your opponent.

Jaworski said he’ll spend the rest of his 10 days off with family and taking part in non-required workouts with Marine recruiters in Akron.

He ships out Monday morning with seven other new Marines, bound for Camp LeJeune, N.C., for the 29-day Marine Corps Training during which he’ll “live in the field.”

“It’s ‘stay alive combat training,’ ” he said, describing it as 25 days of life in the field, sleeping in sleeping bags. After that, he reports to Fort Lee, Va., to begin training in his MOS, or military occupational specialty — armory.

But he expects to head to Afghanistan soon.

“The job I have, most of the time you end up going,” he said. “If you get stationed with an infantry unit, you go pretty quick.”

Physically strong, mentally tough and psyched for a life in the Marines, Jaworski shows how ready he is.
Asked by Sargent if he can have a cell phone now that he’s out of basic training, he shrugs his shoulders.
“I’m only going for 29 days,” he said. “It’s not like I need to spend all day on the phone.”

Yeah, Domzalski was right. Jaworski has grown up.

“I don’t know if my friends would recognize him now.”


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home