OCEANSIDE, California — As a young man, Jeremy Spaunhorst had a Marine Corps poster in his bedroom.
“They had a lot of pride, and I wanted to be one of them,” said Sgt. Spaunhorst, who joined the Marine Corps in 2010 after high school.
A Gerald, Missouri, native, he comes from a military family, with three of his four brothers in the Army or Navy.
Spaunhorst was previously stationed as an infantry squad leader at Twentynine Palms Base in southern California for five years before coming to Mason City as a recruiter.
He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2013, and also served at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen in 2014, where he provided security.
“My first deployment in Afghanistan was pretty hectic as we did a lot of operations,” he said April 21 at Camp Pendleton. “At that point in the war, we were dealing with a lot of bad guys who kept us very busy.”
As a squad leader, Spaunhorst would meet with Afghani elders to ask what the Marine Corps could do for them.
“A lot of people think infantry Marines just destroy, but we win the hearts and minds of people by building schools and medical facilities,” he said, describing a practice developed during the Vietnam War. “We wanted to show that we cared and that we were there to help.”
A farmer would regularly bring the Marines explosive devices he dug up and would tell them to stay away from certain unsafe areas, Spaunhorst said.
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But while he was in Afghanistan, Spaunhorst missed his daughter’s birth and first birthday.
“It’s very hard, because all I want to do now is spend time with her,” he said of his daughter, now 2, of whom he has shared custody.
As a recruiter, he is responsible for 21 high schools and two community colleges. He recently worked with two recruits who were received at boot camp April 18 in San Diego — Jonah Ringham, 20, and Tyler Knudtson, 21, both Lake Mills High School graduates.
The two had an initial strength test April 21, which included a 1.5-mile run, pull-ups and as many crunches they could do in two minutes. It’s a shortened version of the branch’s personal fitness test, which is administered every six months.
“Today is a big day for them, but I think they’re well-prepared,” Spaunhorst said.
Knudtson did 13 pull-ups, 55 crunches and a 12:10 run; Ringham, 21 pull-ups, 80 crunches and a 10:40 run. Both greatly surpassed the minimum for males — two pull-ups, 35 crunches and a 13:30 run.
But Spaunhorst says he’ll recruit individuals who can do anywhere from zero to 30 pull-ups.
“It’s all about how much heart you have, and about not quitting,” he said.
He plans another 14 years with the Marine Corps before pursuing a criminal justice degree to work as a federal marshal.