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Amanda Butterfield ReportingThe United States Marines were the first called and deployed to the Middle East for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and even now make up over 21 percent of the fighting force there. Every year more than 5200 men and women enroll in the Marine Corp, hundreds from Utah. And this week, we're following two of them.
Every man who signs up for the Marines west of the Mississippi is trained at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot, in San Diego California. That's where two Utahns, Ryan Soules of Salt Lake, and Kyle Christensen of Payson are right now. We've been following the two new recruits from the minute they signed up with the Corp to their first day of training.
Kyle Souls and Ryan Christensen are two of 679 Utahns who join the marines every year.
Kyle Soules, Marine Recruit: “I picked the marines because of the pride they always walk around with, and they always get the respect from everyone around them.”
19-year-old Kyle’s father couldn't be more proud.
Kyle: "All the men in my family have always joined the military."
Ryan has the support of his parents, but not his entire family.
"Ryan: My brother, older, he thinks I'm making the wrong decision.”
But at 25, Ryan needed a change.
Ryan Christensen: “I want to keep going, learning. I want to better myself and life, and I think the marine corps is the ticket.”
First stop: Marine Corp Recruit Depot, San Diego California for 12 of the hardest weeks of training in the military. And the first steps to becoming a marine are taken.
Though Ryan and Kyle weren't in this group of recruits, they'll never forget taking this step.
Kyle: "I go to church every Sunday, since I stepped on the yellow footprint."
From now until graduation the yelling never stops, as instructors slowly drill the civilian life out of these young men.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Schepis, Drill Instructor: “We’re trying to mold them into what they need to be, take all that nasty civilian life of sitting on the couch, eating potato chips, and training them to a proper marine they need to be.”
Then all their pockets emptied of chewing gum, receipts, plane tickets. They are allowed to keep a bible, identification, credit cards, family pictures but it's all stowed way. The recruits are given only seconds to do this, and expected to do only as they are told.
"Are you done scratching your face and are you done looking at me? Are you done scratching your face?” “Yes sir!"
It is ultimately the Drill Instructors who decide what a recruit keeps.
“What is it?”
“It's a ruler sir.”
“It's trash now.”
Once they are issued underwear, shorts, a shirt, and socks, they make a physical transformation, for good reasons.
Drill Instructor: "Disease, lice, infection, we don't want them to get sick right off the bat."
After each recruit is shaved, they'll make another change, into their issued clothes. For this day as a recruit, they'll be lucky to get four hours of sleep. For Ryan, it was one of the worst days of his life.
Ryan Schepis: "It was scary and kind of intense, you didn't know what to expect."
And this is only the beginning. Coming up tomorrow we'll visit Ryan and Kyle in the midst of training. We'll show you all the training they've had to complete and you'll be surprised at how much they've changed in the course of eight weeks -- you might not even recognize them.