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Young Marines fall in to new unit

10 Oct 2008 | Lance Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

Eight-year-olds to twelfth graders now have the opportunity to join the Mojave Vipers, the newest unit in the Young Marine Program, that has just started in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

            To join the program, children must be enrolled in a school certified by the state, including home-schooled children. They also must be an overall good student at the school. Special needs children are also welcome to join the new unit.

            More than 25 children have already signed up to participate in the year-long program, said Staff Sgt. Daniel Montague, the Mojave Vipers commanding officer who expects to get even more children signed up during the parent orientation meeting Oct. 18 at Twentynine Palms Elementary School.

            “This program is designed to teach them to resist drugs and peer pressure,” said Montague, a Redwood City, Calif., native. “It also gives a lot of these children a support group for when their own parents deploy.”

            According to a Young Marine Program pamphlet, the overall mission is to impact America’s future by providing quality youth developmental programs that will help develop its members into responsible citizens who enjoy and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

            Leading Young Marines is a mixture of 10 civilians and active duty service members from the surrounding community.

            The unit will begin meeting in November, and before joining the ranks as Young Marines, each child must complete recruit training.  Throughout the training the children learn general subjects, such as Young Marine and Marine Corps history, customs and courtesies, close order drill, and military rank structure.

            Cpl. Lance Jones, a drill instructor for the Mojave Vipers, will experience being a leader for the Young Marine Program for the first time and has high hopes for the new program.

            “I first heard about the program when I was overseas,” said Jones, a Coleman, Texas, native. “When I heard about the Mojave Vipers, I automatically wanted to help out.”

            Recruit training is a minimum of 26 hours where each child must complete a modified physical fitness test and pass tests on all the curriculum taught throughout the training. 

            “If the child fails boot camp, [they] will be recycled to the next recruit training or will be discharged,” Montague said. “Although, every effort will be made to help the child pass.”      

            After completing recruit training, the new Young Marines will perform close order drill every Friday and participate in various community services and fundraisers throughout the community. Each child must complete 240 hours of community service every year and the money they raise will help pay for their Marine Corps Ball trip to Hawaii this year. 

            If a Young Marine reaches the rank of sergeant in the program and decides to enlist in the armed services, they are contracted to be promoted to E-2 within any branch after successful completion of basic training.

            As the Young Marines participate in different events and complete different

training they will receive badges and ribbons to show their dedication and hard work during their time in the program.

            “These children are learning values they can use throughout the rest of their life,” said Staff Sgt. Fred Mancuso, a Mojave Vipers adult staff and instructor. “We worked hard to put this organization together for the children. Our goal is to give these kids guidance and leadership.”

            For more information regarding the Young Marine Program contact Montague at

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms