Senior prepares to launch career as U.S. Marine

After May 30, most seniors are enjoying their final summer before college and they will begin college in August. For senior Vipop Lopitakwong, however, college isn’t part of his plans. On June 16, Vipop will join the United States Marine Corps, a decision influenced by the history of this branch of the military.

“[The Marines have] always been first to go, first boots on land, first people anywhere in the war zone,” Vipop said. “Knowing that really intrigued me to challenge myself and join the most elite infantry in the world,” Vipop said.

Vipop chose the Marine Corps based on the intense structure he will receive. His father fought for the Thai army, but Vipop believes the Marines provides a different type of structure.

“The Marines are strict and disciplined,” Vipop said. “The training is a lot longer and harder [than any other branch of the military.] The other military branches don’t compare to the Marines in what they do in training and how they execute things.”

Vipop has begun physical workouts with his fellow Marines from the recruitment center. He described one particular workout regiment.

“We went on a three-mile jog with ammo cans [which weigh] thirty to thirty-five pounds,” Vipop said. “We ran three miles through the woods and back and I had a backpack on filled with sand that weighted about 40 pounds.”

The mental component of training is by far more extreme than the physical workouts. Vipop is prepared.

“It’s more tough mentally than physically,” Vipop said. “It’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. They break you down to where you’re a 6-year-old again, and then build you back up to a United States Marine.”

He will begin training at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, California.

“It’s repetitive screaming and yelling in your face and always being stressed out,” Vipop said.  “If you don’t work well under stress, you really shouldn’t be a Marine. It doesn’t scare me at all. If anything, it encourages me.”

Vipop is ready to take on the stress he is about to endure, but believes that no one can truly mentally prepare for the ferocity of boot camp.

“You just have to prepare the best you can so that when you do go, you gain the most and come out on top,” Vipop said.

Vipop said he is excited about training at Camp Pendleton.

“I’m looking forward to whatever they throw at me, whatever they challenge me with. It’s not knowing what’s coming next, not knowing what’s behind that corner, [that I’m looking forward to.] I hope to God my training will bring me a long way.”

For his whole life, Vipop has known solidly that he wanted to fight with the Marines.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, it’s something I will do, and coming down to it, it is a matter of life and death,” Vipop said.

The prospect of dying for his fellow Marines doesn’t frighten Vipop in the least. In fact, it makes him want to do all he can to protect the brotherhood he is about to join.

“Death doesn’t scare me,” Vipop said. “If my fellow Marines are in trouble, I’m going to be there to help. I’m not going to hide behind a wall.”

Every day, soldiers risk their lives, and Vipop would willingly risk his life for any of his fellow Marines. He believes this aspect is what makes the Marine Corps so special.

“Marines can’t bear to see one of their fellow soldiers get shot at or mangled,” Vipop said. “Risking their life means nothing to them, and it’s nothing to me. It’s something Marines live for.”

Vipop is planning on attending one of two schools specializing in infantry training. One is the MTP (Marines Combat Training) while the other, the ITB (Infantry Training Battalion) specializes in hands-on infantry training. Vipop will most likely attend the ITB.

For Vipop, the Marine Corps is a career, one he hopes will last for 20 years. At the peak of his career, he would like to become a member of Special Forces.

“It’s the same thing as the Navy Seals or Army Green Berets,” Vipop said. “If I could get to Special Operations Command that would be the highlight of my career.”

Vipop is anticipating the next 20 years and looks forward to serving his country.

“It’s a hard life and it’s going to be a hell of a ride,” Vipop said. “I’m ready and I’ll be just fine.”