A shared dream
Two students, two paths to the Marine Corps
Michaela Rubin (left) and Kelly Murphy train together to ensure they’re in shape to meet the physical demands of Officer Candidate School. Both women are working toward being Marines. Yusong Shi, The Spectrum
One. She gripped the bar as tightly as she could and pulled herself upward.
Ten. Michaela Rubin's chin raised high above the bar. She kept her back straight as her body hung in the air.
Forty. Her arms began to tremble, but she continued to keep her core tight. She needed to keep herself together for a few more seconds.
Fifty-six. It was time to remember the importance of mental strength. She did not let the pain or sweat get the best of her.
Seventy. Seventy seconds - which felt like a lifetime - had passed. She had accomplished her mission, holding herself in a pull-up position for more than a minute.
Rubin, a sophomore Chinese studies major, is one of 27 students who belong to the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School program, which is located in the Commons, Suite 208.
She is part of the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC), a summer internship for undergraduates who wish to pursue a Marine officer's commission. The program is designed to give students an understanding of the opportunities and challenges that Marine officers face.
But Rubin has found setbacks in her path to become a Marine.
Last summer, Rubin attended her first training at Officer Candidate School (OCS), a school in Quantico, Va., that trains, screens and evaluates candidates for the Marine Corps. She found the Marines at the school to be inspirational, which reaffirmed her desire to become part of their family.
After a summer spent meeting the demands of the high-intensity training, just a few days before Rubin's graduation from OCS, she was dropped from the program.
The training is "more demanding than [most people] have experienced before," according to OCS' site. It includes 12-mile endurance hikes in full combat gear, obstacle courses and combat conditioning courses, like the 3.5-mile combat simulation course.
Rubin's lack of physical fitness and knowledge of the prep material caused the school to make the decision. She failed two academic tests and one physical test.
"I really overestimated myself and underestimated the rigors of training," Rubin said.
After holding herself up for 70 seconds, Rubin could not do any pull-ups on the bar. She was not going to allow being dropped from the training program bring her down, though.
Rubin immediately began the process of being reselected for the program.
She said she trained physically and studied the material to prove she "would be an important asset to the Marines should [she] be reselected."
She scored a 293 out of 300 on her physical test the second time and, after the commanding officer of Western New York interviewed her, she was reselected this winter break.
Rubin will attend two six-week increments of training for the next two summers. She would have graduated her first increment last summer had she passed, but she looks forward to trying again.
She hopes to graduate OCS in the summer of 2015.
The program is competitive, she said, but it's the only one that allows you to walk away with "no strings attached" if you choose not to remain part of the program. "If you don't want to do it, they don't want you," Rubin said.
Rubin joined the PLC at UB during the first semester of her freshman year. She had known she wanted to pursue a military career path since high school and almost transferred out of UB to a service academy before she discovered the PLC program.
"I want to be a part of the elite force that defends this nation," Rubin said. "Marines and Marine officers are truly a different breed of people who are willing to put down everything to protect the men and women next to them."
Rubin trains five to six times each week. She began her training unable to do any pull-ups and now she can do six dead-hang pull-ups in a row. Her goal is to reach 12 by the time she gets to OCS this summer.
Kelly Murphy can do 11 pull-ups. After training together, she and Rubin are confident that they can meet the physical demands of OCS.
Murphy, a freshman legal studies major, grew up in a military family. Her father is a Marine and her sister is a Petty Officer Second Class in the Navy.
When Murphy was 8 years old, her father was deployed to Iraq for more than a year.
"It was hard but made our family stronger," Murphy said. "He was busy but always made time and made sure he was around for birthdays and special events."
Following in his footsteps is a dream of hers, she said. The PLC program at UB is helping her achieve that.
"I want to be a part of something bigger than myself," Murphy said. "The Marine Corps is all about honor, pride and respect, which are all attributes I want to be associated with."
Murphy sees the Marine Corps as a lifelong career. She looks forward to spending six weeks at OCS in Quantico this summer with Rubin. She will then return to UB to continue working on her legal studies degree.
The summer between her junior and senior year, she plans to go back to OCS to complete another six weeks of training. She hopes to be able to accept her commission and become a United States Marine Corps officer upon graduating from UB.
Captain David E. Rosenbrock is responsible for officer selection in Buffalo and the greater Western New York area. He seeks college students who wish to pursue a potential career in the United States Marine Corps.
Rosenbrock said discipline is the hallmark of a Marine. He believes Murphy and Rubin have what it takes to make it.
"Kelly and Michaela have made substantial improvements since they have joined our program," Rosenbrock said. "They have both made significant gains in physical strength and endurance and have become more disciplined in their academic pursuits. The Marine Corps does not want just 'anyone' to become an officer. We only work with well-rounded, intelligent people."
Murphy's father, Michael Murphy, is "proud beyond words" that Murphy and her sister have decided to serve in the military, he said.
"It is an honorable thing to put your country ahead of your own self-interests, and an experience that a very small percentage of young people ever have," Michael said in an email from Sasebo, Japan. "My baby has decided to follow her old man's footsteps [into the United States Marines]," he said.
Michael went on to say his daughter is going to "one up" him because she'll be graduating as a Second Lieutenant.
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