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A day at the Army Guard

April 24, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

Cool trucks, M-16 rifles and money for college.

On Saturday, seven young men learned about the Maryland Army National Guard during a recruitment exercise at the armory where they each became "Guardsman For A Day."

Several participants said their favorite part of the day was field dressing, or taking apart and reassembling the unloaded M-16s.

Pfc. Shaun Rogers said the participants liked the rifles and cool trucks, but also were enthusiastic about the possibility of joining the military one day.

Zachary Mendiola, 19, of Sharpsburg, said he expects to join the National Guard after graduation this spring. The Guard will help him with education and financing, said Mendiola, who wants to learn automotive and welding skills.

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Guardsman For A Day is held to expose young people to military services, whether it's the National Guard or the Marines, said Staff Sgt. Mike Gregory, a recruiter with the 729th Forward Support Battalion.

Participants learned drills, studied communications equipment and watched how a mine detector is used, Gregory said.

During the early afternoon Gregory put the troops through drills, teaching them how to stand at attention properly, standing perfectly still.

"If that big ol' bee lands on your nose, you're not going to do anything, not going to swat at it," Gregory ordered his young troops.

Gregory taught them to present and order arms, salute and bring their arms back down, then tricked them by calling out "order french fries."

Some of the young men put their arms down as soon as they heard "order" rather than waiting for the full command.

"When you're down in basic training you have to pay attention because they'll try to trick you up," Gregory told them.

Later the participants got to "drill" Pfc. Rogers after he left his M-16 unattended.

"One thing we really stressed today is never let your M-16 out of your sight or reach," Gregory said.

For catching Rogers off guard, the private allowed the youngsters to order him to do pushups and situps while they yelled in his face and made him smell their dirty shoes.

At least four of the boys planned to spend the night in the field by the armory to watch the local unit do night training, said Gregory, of Middletown, Md.

Participants had to be 16 to 35 years of age, but Gregory granted an exception to a 14-year-old boy. The boy's mother told Gregory he was eager to learn.

Gregory said Guardsman For A Day events can be set up on any drill weekend. Anyone interested in participating in the exercise can call Gregory at 301-733-8540.

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