Matthew Cloney doesn’t quit.
A week after he graduated from Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy in 2018, the 18-year-old from Post Falls enlisted in the Marine Corps. But he didn’t ship out for recruit training until January.
“It took me quite a long time to pass some of their physical requirements,” he said. “I was not physically fit at all.”
After months of hard work, Cloney finally made it to boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego — but suffered a stress fracture in his left tibia during the third week of training that landed him in rehabilitation for months.
“I had no idea when I was getting out of there,” he said.
Training normally lasts 13 weeks. For Cloney, it took 32, including the time he spent recovering from his injury.
This month, Cloney graduated from basic training.
Transitioning back into training after months of rehab was a challenge, he said. But boot camp seems better in hindsight.
“Spending half an hour doing push-ups doesn’t seem fun when you’re doing it, but when you look back, it does,” he said.
The final part of Cloney’s training was a field event called “the crucible.” It’s 54 hours of strenuous hiking while carrying 60 pounds of gear. The limited food supply had to be rationed, and the trainees got only four hours of sleep per night.
The crucible culminated in a grueling hike up a steep hill nicknamed “The Reaper.” At the top, a moment of ceremony: Each recruit who completed the challenge was called a Marine for the first time.
For some, it’s a emotional moment. Cloney said it didn’t really sink in until after he returned from the ceremony, when a new recruit approached him to ask what the crucible was like.
A few months before, Cloney was the recruit asking newly-minted Marines for advice. Now the roles had been reversed.
“I realized that I’m a Marine now,” he said.
Completing basic training has changed him. He’s more physically fit than ever, he noted — but some changes are deeper than that.
During training, Cloney said he doubted himself. He wondered if he would succeed and worried about re-injury.
“You can do a lot more than you think you can do,” he said. “I thought I was going to fail or mess up. But I made it through.”
Cloney has another month of combat training left, after which he’ll enter occupational specialist training in cryptologic linguistics.
Cryptologic linguists are primarily responsible for identifying and analyzing foreign communications. Cloney said he’ll spend at least a year learning a foreign language before moving on to his job.
In some ways, the training still ahead of him will be harder than what he’s already been through. He said he was looking forward to what lies beyond training — service.
“If I could make it through recruit training,” he said with a smile, “I’m pretty sure I can make it through the rest.”