PLATTEVILLE — The U.S. Marine Corps have been known for decades as “The few, the proud … the Marines.”
One of the Marine Corps’ newest, Private First Class Adam Niehaus of Platteville, received the Marine Corps’ Leatherneck Award for being the most physically fit Marine in his 660-person recruit class.
The award came after basic training that included “drill, pugil sticks, boxing and a physical fitness test,” said Niehaus, a member of a company called the “Disciples of Discipline.” “Some were mostly in shape. Some didn’t try. The recruiters we have in the Marine Corps make sure we’re all in shape.”
Niehaus’ first day as a Marine was June 25, at the Corps’ Recruit Depot San Diego. Niehaus graduated from Platteville High School just three weeks earlier, but his goal for years was to be a Marine in the footsteps of his stepfather, Mike Gillen, who served four years during Operation Desert Storm.
“I wanted to do it since I was 7,” he said. “I met my stepdad, and he was a Marine, and I wanted to be like him — he led by example. They’re the smallest force in the military, and they’re the strongest force in the military. That’s what I want to do — be part of the best.”
With the Marines in mind, Niehaus switched from football to cross country at Platteville High School. He finished 32nd in the 2011 WIAA boys cross country championships. He then went 38–12 as a wrestler, advancing to the WIAA wrestling tournament at 120 pounds.
“I was in wrestling and football before, but since I wanted to go to the Marine Corps, they run a lot,” he said. “I never knew I was a natural runner.”
Basic training is an intense experience, to say the least. One recruit, a former member of the Army Reserves, collapsed and died after an initial strength training exercise, which according to Military.com involves completing two pull-ups, 35 sit-ups in two minutes, and a 1.5-mile run in less than 13½ minutes.
“Sometimes you understand what’s going on,” said Niehaus. Drill instructors “have a method — they repeat everything so you get it right, so you get it right the next time.”
Niehaus is interested in becoming a crewman on an amphibious assault vehicle. “I’ve always liked water; I’ve always liked tanks,” he said. He will be able to switch his Military Occupational Specialty in two years; he is interested in firefighting or military police.
“You usually take four years at a time to see what’s going on and how you view the Marine Corps,” he said. “When you join the military you get your benefits, you get a steady paycheck, and they provide for you. That’s I think why more people are joining the military.”
Niehaus may find himself in the Middle East once his training is completed. He went to Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 2 for 28 days of additional training, which will be followed by three months of MOS training in Del Mar, Calif.
“It depends what unit I get stuck with, what unit is coming back from Afghanistan or is going to the Middle East,” he said. “You start paying attention to the world because you wonder where you’ll be sent to next.”
Being in the military carries with it another implication.
“I don’t want to die, but you always think about your family, your country and who you’re serving,” he said. “Basic told me you’re supposed to accomplish your mission, and if accomplishing your mission means dying for your country, then yes, I’ll die for my country to accomplish the mission.”
Niehaus’ future in the Marines also depends on plans to downsize the Marine Corps by 60,000.
“I’d rather stay in the enlisted ranks and be part of the brotherhood” than become an officer, he said.