All Marines know Quantico as the “Crossroads of the Marine Corps.”
The smallest branch of the US armed forces is the Marine Corps. The Marines are usually the first “boots on the ground” and there are less than 10,000 colonels in the Marine Corps. Each Marine eventually trains at Quantico, and I believe it after seeing it fist-hand. During our lunch break, we got to chat with a vast group of Marines currently training at Quantico. All of the Marines I talked to were finishing their 10 week leadership courses and came from different backgrounds. Some enlisted in high school, one was already a graduate with his masters, and another was an ROTC cadet. All of the Marines were headed in different directions: one woman to Okinawa, one woman was an intelligence officer headed to their new offices located at Quantico, and the two men were still awaiting their assignments for their infantry stations.
After chatting with the Marines we got to see one of their lecture hall and learn about the importance of mapping. In the middle of each lecture hall there are elevated sandboxes. The instructors use these sandboxes to illustrate missions on different terrains and there are several smaller sandboxes in the room necessary for the groups of students to practice themselves. This talent is necessary for learning how to map in the field where instead of sandboxes they will use whatever they have on their person, the ground under there feet, sticks, leaves, and whatever they can get their hands on.
Later we went to the Marine Helicopter Squadron-1 (HMX-1). HMX-1 is responsible for the transportation of the President, Vice President, Cabinet Members, and other VIP guests.
Their headquarters are located at Quantico, and we were fortunate enough to chat and get a tour with current HMX-1 pilots. These pilots are the best in the business and compete for a position with HMX-1. One of the most memorable things from the trip was one of the pilots talking about transporting the President. He said HMX-1 is probably the most photographed helicopter in the world, and as the crew responsible for the craft, the HMX-1 team are probably the most photographed troops in the country. He glowed as he talked about how privileged and thrilling it is to stand next to the President as he walks by or sit in the cockpit as the President exits the aircraft. As Marines, it is their job to ensure his safety, but also to ensure they look professional in the photos- so no smiling or giggling, especially if they do not want to be mocked by their fellow Marines.
Later he talked about how each President is different in their respective manner towards the Marines. He said most Presidents are sure to shake the hand of each Marine on their exit of the vehicle. Former President George H. W. Bush made sure to greet, shake hands, and chat with each Marine prior to the flight. These stories oozed from each Marine with a mixture of joy, modesty, and mostly pride.
We did not get to see the President’s helicopter (It is a highly classified and restricted area, obviously), but we did get to see and photograph an MV-22B Osprey. This aircraft has two, not one but two, Rolls-Royce engines and is manufactured by Boeing. These helicopters were AMAZING!
Following the tour of the HMX-1 hangar, we proceeded to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. This museum was one of the most brilliantly designed museums as well as most informative. Even if you are not interested in the Marine Corps, the museum had great history to read about, and the design work made it a pleasure to experience. I highly encourage everyone to visit if they can! Here is the link to the museum:
This trip was amazing, and I learned so much. Thank you to everyone who served or is serving in the Marine Corps, and a huge thank you to everyone in the U.S. armed forces!