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Lance Cpl. Aaron Kristopik, a paralegal clerk with the Combat Center’s Staff Judge Advocate and a native of New Britain, Conn., presents his military identification card to receive his free admission to SeaWorld in San Diego April 4.

Photo by Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Aaron’s Exploits; set out to sea

13 Apr 2009 | Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Editor’s note; Last week we started-up Aaron’s Exploits, a new feature in each Observation Post where we follow Lance Cpl. Aaron Kristopik, a single Marine aboard the Combat Center, as he explores Southern California in search of cheap or free attractions for service members as a chance to get out of the barracks after he said he “realized the Combat Center seems to be a geographical oddity, where if someone drives two hours in any direction they will hit an awesome tourist attraction.” This week he headed southeast to SeaWorld, which is free to service members and their families.

After broadening his horizons and temporarily satisfying his seemingly insatiable wanderlust on his cavern trip, Lance Cpl. Aaron Kristopik, a paralegal clerk with the Combat Center’s Staff Judge Advocate and a native of New Britain, Conn., decided to head down to the coast and experience one of San Diego’s biggest attractions – SeaWorld.

After yet another two–hour drive, this time through Southern California’s rolling hills, Kristopik made it down to San Diego to experience something he had dreamed of for as long as he could remember.

“I’ve really only seen the Atlantic Ocean,” Kristopik said. “When you think of the West Coast you think of beautiful tropical weather and sunshine. You get plenty of both of those in SeaWorld.”

Shamu, the biggest attraction at SeaWorld, was one of the primary reasons Kristopik said he wanted to take the long drive toward the coastline.

“I mean come on, it’s Shamu,” he said. “Ever since I saw Free Willy when I was a kid I knew I had to see him in real life.

“A lot of people don’t like Twentynine Palms,” he added. “You know what I would say to them? Being stuck here helped me realize a lifelong dream. Thank you ‘Stumps,’ thank you.”

Another discovery Kristopik made during his SeaWorld visit was just how well the animals and their trainers interact and perform.

“I thought I liked my job, but seeing these people and the animals – they all seem so happy,” he said. “I was watching one of the performances wondering why I can’t be that happy all the time. But then I saw people just riding dolphins; they get paid to do that. I know I’d be smiling 24/7 if all I did was swim with a dolphin.”

Kristopik said the training progression the animals go through must be the one of the most interesting processes out there.

“These people take wild animals and train them to the point that, I think, they’re smarter than most people I know,” he said. “I remember one of the performers saying they get their animals from rescues and animal shelters. That’s like getting a kid from an orphanage and making him into a rocket scientist.”

The possibility of being an animal trainer seems like a real tangible idea, he said.

“After seeing what those handlers were doing, it really opened my eyes,” he said. “I’m going to have to do my homework on it. Let’s just say I have a whole new outlook on life now.”

With Kristopik’s second expedition out of the way, he plans on traveling to a more out-of-the way attraction for his next adventure.

“I’m going to do some reading,” he said. “I just know there’s some weird stuff out there waiting for me.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms