Summer Training: Boys from around the country land at MMA camp

HARLINGEN — “America!”

That was the word one Marine Military Academy summer camper shouted as he jumped and splashed into the mud course.

One by one, the campers in the Echo Company made up of 62 boys crawled their way through the course meant to test their strength and endurance.

It was just one of the school’s many physical training courses that more than 300 boys from across the nation will have to complete at the 28-day camp.

“I love this camp; it’s my second year here,” said Jackson Mankowski, 12, from Madison, Wisconsin. “You learn a lot and you just get better as a person.”

Mankowski said the reasons he attended the summer camp were to gain courage, get stronger, have fun and meet new friends from around the country and the world.

But he said he’s really there to help reach his goal in life of joining the Marine Corps.

MMA summer camp is an intense four-week program for young men ages 12 to 18 who love the outdoors and want to push themselves to new heights.

The campers experience adventures that include rappelling, negotiating a cable 30 feet above the ground, crawling through the mud pit, learning how to construct a rope bridge and taking on their buddies in paintball.

“It’s been real awesome,” said Walton Springhall, 13, from Fredericksburg.

“My favorite part was the mud course and the aerospace training.”

He said his mother wanted him to attend, and he’s glad she did.

He said he was looking into attending boarding schools and picked another over MMA. But when his mother found out there was a summer camp here, she decided to send him.

“San Marcos Academy is really easy compared to this school,” Springhall said. “I’m glad that I got to go to the camp instead of the school.”

MMA is the only Marine military academy in the country. It was established 50 years ago based on the concepts and principles of the Marine Corps.

The campers are taught to get the most out of their day.

Not a single hour is wasted as campers find themselves doing physical training, rock climbing, running the confidence course, swimming, playing team sports or any one of the many other exciting and fun courses at the academy.

“From sun up to sun down, they are doing something on an hourly basis,” said John Elizondo, MMA instructor. “The camp instills discipline and shows them some obstacles may be in their way but if they try they can push through them.”