"AYE AYE GUNNERY SERGEANT!!" Justin screamed, explaining that phrases like these had been a part of his daily routine for the last two summers at the Marine Officer Candidate School (OCS). The commanding officers, he says, scream at you "at the highest level, bursting blood vessels in your face, giving you a headache." And you do the same in response.
A criminology master's submatriculant, Justin Bean (C'19) graduated from OCS and is now an official Marine. He will be an official Marine Officer once he graduates.
Hearing Justin’s daily routine at OCS, one cannot help but feel mildly to severely nauseous, depending on your level of physical fitness and ability to withstand early morning wake up calls.
Every day begins at 4 a.m., also known as 0400 hours. 0500 to 0800 hours is spent doing intense “PT,” or Physical Training. Their only breaks from training are for meals and only last 5 to 10 minutes maximum. Breakfast alone contains 2500 calories, equating to 250 to 500 calories consumed per minute.
The day continues with a 30 second shower, a quick change into a clean uniform, followed by activities ranging from squad movements to history lessons to combat training.
“Everything is done quickly,” Justin says. “Quickly, loudly, and intensely.”
Little did Justin know that mental strength and physical discipline would become so critical before his career as a Marine had even begun. During his fifth week of his first year at the Officer Candidate School, Justin broke his leg while on a moonlight hike.
“I made a splint, put it under my pant leg, continued the hike, did some tactical training, got back to the squad bay, and made a more sure brace for myself,” said Justin. “I made it from two pieces of cleaning rod from my rifle and some medical tape and I ran on that for five days.”
These were the same five days in which Justin was expected to complete his physical fitness test.
“When I felt my leg go, I kind of reverted back to, ‘Let’s finish today. Let’s finish today. Let’s finish today.’ You do that enough days and you just get done.”
Despite his broken leg, Justin managed to pass his physical fitness exam, receiving perfect scores in the pull–ups and sit–ups sections.
This was what Justin described to be his most testing time at OCS, but one would never know from his description. He delivered the story with the same tone and inflection as everything else he said—with clear and resounding speech, a calm demeanor, and a methodical plan of action.
When asked how he managed to make the switch from being a Marine to a Penn student in such a short time frame, Justin’s answer was surprising. While he admits there was an adjustment, he said that, at the end of the day, “I’m the same person all of the time...Getting into a regimen or getting out of a regimen isn’t that hard for me.”
In addition to taking six classes, five of which are graduate level, Justin is the chair external of the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education (SCUE), a Deputy Director of Intercol, the competitive traveling Model UN team within the International Affairs Association (IAA), a Rock Climbing instructor at Pottruck, an Outdoor Adventures Guide for the Department of Recreation at Penn, as well as a member of the Penn Poker Club, the Penn Climbing Team, and Sigma Nu Fraternity in which he previously served as community service chair.
Before deciding to submatriculate into criminology and eventually join the Marine Corps, Justin came into Penn set on becoming a lawyer after his positive experience with mock trial, debate, and Model UN throughout middle school and high school. He admitted he was bullied in middle school, called hurtful names such as "string bean." He said speech and debate gave him the confidence to tell them off for good.
As for why Justin wanted to go into law specifically, his answer is quite simple.
“I always wanted to help people, and I wanted to help prevent people from going through hardship,” Justin said. “I thought that being a prosecutor and locking up criminals would be a great way to do it.”
Justin believes he got his love of helping others from his family. His greatest influence, however, was his father, a man who was in the US Air Force, served in Vietnam, worked for NASA, and was a national security adviser to multiple presidents.
Justin’s father tragically passed away right before the start of Justin’s spring semester sophomore year. One of Justin’s childhood best friends, Tim Piazza, also lost his life just a month later in the horrific Penn State fraternity hazing incident that rocks the nation to this day.
After going home for two separate funerals of two people he was incredibly close to in the span of two months, Justin described he was “not at his most positive.” Even with the sadness pressing down on him, it was the memory of his dad that made him keep fighting for excellence and to stay happy along the way.
“There were a couple of times during my childhood when I thought my dad was going to die. We had some deep conversations, and he told me, ‘Live your life happily when I’m gone, and that will make me happy,’” Justin said. “I felt like I would be letting him down if I was down, so that gave me a lot of motivation, and I kept pushing.”
Looking over at Justin, this was the first and only time his voice was no longer loud and his eyes were not directly holding my gaze. His speech was a little quieter now, but his resolution was unwavering.
It was right after tragedy struck that Justin made the decision to commit to his own path of service, holding his father’s memory close to his heart every step of the way. He was contracted by the Marine Corps in January, officially signed in February, and has never looked back.
Justin shared that what keeps him going is his internal drive to succeed and overcome challenges, along with his devotion to upholding the legacy of the Marines and all that the organization represents.
“When you become a marine, you are a marked man or marked woman. You wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, as I’m wearing right here,” Justin says, pointing to the pin on left of his jacket. “You internalize that.”
“It’s kind of like the group’s morals and values that they hold dear, you learn to hold dear, and at some point you realize they were always there, and that’s why you’re a member.”