SAN DIEGO -- As part of a Single Marine Program volunteer opportunity, approximately 100 Marines and sailors from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., traveled to the San Diego Comic-Con International, July 24 - 27.
Amid this bazaar-styled showcase – comprised of diversified fans and inestimable examples of heralded artistic mediums, including popular TV, movies, games, comics, literature, and pictures – the Marines and sailors had a mission.
To guide the masses and revel with their inner-nerd.
“This [Comic-Con] is a crowd puller,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Brockelman, the Combat Camera Chief for MCAS Yuma. “Comic books, comic art, film, video games and these types of things – they draw in the newer generation of Marines. This is the type of venue that makes Marines want to get out and volunteer.”
For three hours each day, the volunteers carried out the jobs provided to them by the Comic-Con International agency in order to keep the flow of this massive event in sync.
From the venue-laden floors of the San Diego Convention Center, and throughout every nook-and-cranny of the adjacent facilities, the volunteers worked the lines, monitored the attendance of panel events and filled an array of miscellaneous duties.
According to Brockelman, the agency has consistently upped its volunteer allotments for MCAS Yuma year after year due to the vigilant work ethic the Marines display.
“When we put our Marine mentality and attitude into things that need to be done, people tend to listen more,” said Brockelman, who was the senior Marine from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron during the trip. “Over the past two and three years, the Comic-Con guys strived to have us back because we have that type of attitude.”
After completing their shifts, the volunteers were free to explore the endless and extravagant world of Comic-Con surrounding them.
Typical Southern California lures took a backseat to indulgence in contemporary and retro artworks which captivated the Marines in their youth and are still enjoyed on a day-to-day basis.
“You get to take a step into the actual industry, vice just a comic book store, where it’s just a wall full of merchandise,” said Brockelman. “My favorite part was definitely getting to meet the artists … just talking to them and finding out what’s inspired them over the years. Being a former combat illustrator, that stuff just really appeals to me. I remember drawing before even being able to walk.”
For Lance Cpl. Jose Roman, a legal services specialist for MCAS Yuma, Comic-Con provided an unanticipated once in a lifetime opportunity.
After traversing the dense crowds of the venue floor on his way to the “ZeroFriends” clothing booth, pinpointed by a lofty wall of apparel, Roman found himself face-to-face with the freelance artist, Alex Pardee.
“I knew he was going to be there the next day for signings, but that – that was unexpected,” said Roman, a 21-year-old Houston native. “This is a guy who I had been following for years, and then, all of a sudden, he’s right there in front of me.”
Roman and Pardee shook hands and shared a few words before the former took out his cellphone. Roman’s cellphone background was a painting by none other than Alex Pardee.
And while glamour and stardom were commonplace at the Comic-Con celebrations, these kinds of interactions express what Comic-Con truly is down to its core.
“I got to see a lot of stuff at Comic-Con that wouldn’t have been possible if I was just sitting in the barracks,” said Roman. “Actors and writers from some of my favorite shows, and some I’ve never even heard of – they were all over the place. But meeting Alex Pardee, that was definitely my favorite part. It was humbling for me, and probably was for him too.”
Jude Crouch, the director of MCAS Yuma’s Single Marine Program, expressed that the air station will undoubtedly continue to support Comic-Con with willing volunteers.
“It just benefits everybody involved,” said Crouch. “The Marines have the time of their lives and Comic-Con gets the best support possible.”
“They even went as far to say that they wouldn’t mind if their entire pool of volunteers were Marines,” added Crouch jokingly.
Although MCAS Yuma has decided not to raise its allotments for Marine volunteers as of last year, the trip will continue to expose new Marines and sailors to the San Diego Comic-Con and the various cultures and experiences that come along with it.