Plant City has its very own U.S. Marines recruiting office. While some students are planning to go to college or into a career following graduation, others may be considering military service.
As high school students look toward summer vacation, many are beginning to contemplate what they plan to do following graduation day.
Plant City is fortunate to have career programs in place at its high schools that help students find their passion. When the tassels are turned some pack up their bags and head to college. Others roll up their sleeves and head toward the career they have lined up thanks to the connections and help they received from their school.
Others still are eyeing another path: one of military service. Sgt. Joseph G. Pabon Perez, a Marine Corps recruiter in Plant City, said he has had the pleasure of watching many local students find their own while preparing for basic training. The military office is nestled near Esposito Pizza and Lowes and it’s quietly forming a family of future Marines from predominately older high school students who want to make a career in the armed forces.
“The Marine Corps recruits as we go,” Pabon Perez said. “We’re very selective of who we let in. When people are going out we pull people in. Rising seniors can begin talking to the recruiters now if they’re interested in learning more.”
For many, joining the military is something they’ve longed to do for several years. For others, it’s a Plan B. Regardless, if they decide to take on the risks and benefits of becoming a part of the military, Pabon Perez said they should do their research and not hesitate to ask questions before they fully dive in. It’s something he takes very seriously. When someone is interested in joining, he has them come into the office for a meeting and lays out the many benefits, as well as an honest expectation of what they’ll be doing day to day. If they decide the Marines is the branch they want to become a part of, they begin learning what training is like to get a feel for if they’ll fit in. Not everyone will and he tries to be realistic about that up front.
No recruit fends for themself before they head to boot camp. Pabon Perez trains with the young recruits, ensuring their bodies are where they need to be before he ever sends them to the official training. He said by the time his groups are ready to go to Parris Island, they’ve formed a bond unlike any other. They head over with deep-rooted friendships many of them never had before even though they may have been in school together for years.
They must then pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and pass a Military Entrance Processing Station medical exam. Once you head to boot camp the true trials begin. It’s rough, the toughest of all of the branches, according to Pabon Perez. But once you come out the other side, you’re a Marine, part of the Corps family.
“Boot camp is very rough,” Pabon Perez said. “It’s just as much — if not more — mentally than physically. It’s the longest training in all the branches, 13 weeks without a phone, just letters to keep you connected to the outside world. It’s 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. drills with a sergeant in your face. They break you down and build you back up to be a Marine. It’s a brotherhood. When you finish, you made it. You chose the hardest branch of the military and now you’re ready for anything because you’ve trained for everything. It’s an accomplishment like no other.”
Pabon Perez said the benefits that come with enlisting often surprise new recruits. It’s a way to be self sufficient, he said, and that’s tempting for many young students who aren’t sure what their plan is following graduation. On top of their starting pay, Marines have their meals and lodging taken care of while actively serving, as well as free medical and dental. There’s tuition assistance and endless possibilities to explore while you are active.
There’s a misconception about Marines simply being infantry, Pabon Perez said. In reality, recruits have more than 350 different tech fields they can choose from when they enlist. If you have a passion and a skill, there’s room for it in the Marines.
“You spend four years in service and at the end you can decide if you want to continue,” Pabon Perez said. “There are many of us that make careers out of this. Twenty years is 50 percent retirement, 30 years is 75 percent and 40 is 100 percent.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the Marines you can contact Pabon Perez by texting or calling at 813-267-5924. You can also follow and message the office’s Instagram page @pcsplantcity.