Merino to start officer training in Quantico
By Alexa Low
In second grade, Jessica Merino was drawing pictures of helicopters. She knew from a young age that she wanted to serve our country.
As a junior in college, this dream is starting to become a reality.
Merino is very familiar with first responders as both her father and brother are firefighters in the Chicago area along with her other brother who works for a classified government agency.
“Growing up in a family of first responders, they taught me the importance of sacrifice and service to others. This made me want to do the same by joining the Marine Corps,” Merino said.
As a freshman, Merino received emails from Quincy University informing her of the Marine Corps Leadership Internship. Two years later, she decided to apply.
With the help of Captain Rory Kelly, Merino was accepted out of 200 applicants in the Illinois area.
Kelly went through the same program ten years ago and is now an Officer Selection Officer who recruits applicants in the Illinois and Eastern Missouri areas.
Qualifications to enter the program include passing a physical fitness and medical test along with proof that you are either pursuing a bachelor’s degree or have already obtained one.
Performing as many crunches and pull-ups within a time span of two minutes each along with a timed three mile run completes the physical fitness test.
Merino is a member of the women’s basketball team at QU and says basketball has created a disciplined foundation that she will carry with her into the Marines.
“Jess has always sacrificed in order to work at her goals. She gave up going out with friends, sleeping in, and lazing around in order to workout to become stronger and better than she was previously, whether that was for basketball or her physical fitness test,” Merino’s mother said.
Once Captain Kelly chooses an applicant, he then helps them to better their physical fitness test by performing the test with him every two weeks.
“It helps having Capt. Kelly there doing the workout with me because it keeps me motivated and forces me to build my mental toughness. The timed three mile was my weakest area and he helped my to improve my time by a little over a minute,” Merino said.
The program will last 10 weeks and gives students the chance to enter the Marines as an officer immediately after graduating from college with a bachelors degree.
Students in the program will be graded throughout the summer in order to graduate from Officer Candidate School. Leadership skills are fifty percent of the grade while twenty-five percent are academic skills and then the last twenty-five percent is physical fitness.
The mission of Officer Candidate School is to “educate and train officer candidates in Marine Corps knowledge and skills within a controlled and challenging environment in order to evaluate and screen individuals for the leadership, moral, mental, and physical qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.”
Those in the program will serve in the Marines for a minimum of four to five years after graduation.