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Like many Marine recruits, Roland Florenz will ship off to boot camp a month after graduation. But it won't be a high school diploma he earned; Florenz will have completed his doctorate degree — in rocket science.
Staff Sgt. Dominic Freda, a recruiter in Ann Arbor, Mich., said it was clear Florenz, 27, had done some research when he walked into his office for the first time in 2012.
Since he knew Florenz's educational background, Freda set him up with an officer selection officer.
"It doesn't matter if the applicant says, 'I don't want anything to do with the officers,' we still have to let the OSO talk to them," Freda said. "We're looking out for the best interest of that applicant, so he or she knows about every opportunity ... the Marine Corps has to offer."
But he could tell it was in Florenz's heart to enlist, he said. Florenz knows he'll always have the option of becoming an officer, Freda said.
Now Florenz is preparing to ship off to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., after earning his doctorate degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan.
Florenz declined a request for an interview with Marine Corps Times. He doesn't want to talk about completing a doctorate because he's not a boastful person, Freda said. He described the poolee as "180 degrees from the 'look at me guy.' "
That's just one of the traits that Freda said will make Florenz a good Marine. His commitment to education showed the recruiter that he was capable of meeting tough goals, which is why Freda wasn't surprised when Florenz told him he wanted to become a reconnaissance man.
"If you show that you will put the effort in, the Marine Corps is willing to help you out as well," Freda said. "I look at [his degree] like this guy has worked his butt off to get to this point — he's going to make a darn good Marine."
As for showing up at Parris Island with a doctorate degree in rocket science, Freda acknowledged that it will almost certainly catch the attention of drill instructors, who might wonder about his decision to go enlisted.
"I guarantee they'll razz him," Freda said. "But are they going to treat him a little differently? I doubt it. Just because you're older and you've been around the block a little bit doesn't mean you're qualified to be a Marine just yet."
Freda said he tells all poolees, regardless of age or ability, that they need to approach boot camp with humility. If they don't, the Marine Corps will quickly humble them, he said. And he tells poolees like Florenz, who is a decade older than some recruits, to use age and maturity to their advantage.
"I guarantee the drill instructors will use him to their advantage as well," he said. "If he's showing that he's capable of being a leader ... you've got to utilize that."