CAMP GONSALVES — For years, Marines have turned to the reconnaissance field looking for the most intense training available in the Marine Corps.

Cpl. Cody A. Cunningham, a reconnaissance man with Company C, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, is one of those Marines who rose to the challenge.

"I always wanted to be in the military in general," Cunningham said.

His path to the Marine recruiter’s office was long and took him across the world.

Cunningham was born in Conway and later moved to western Australia at the age of 11. He came back to the U.S. for Christmas in 2005 and joined the Marine Corps after walking into the recruiter’s office with aspirations to be an infantryman, he said.

He was very adamant about becoming a infantryman. However, he didn’t know what type of grunt he wanted to be, he said.

While attending the School of Infantry, a few recon Marines came and talked to his company, he said. That was when he knew exactly what he wanted out of the Corps, to become a reconnaissance Marine.

To become a recon Marine, one must go through SOI and the Basic Reconnaissance Course, he said.

"It was worse than boot camp," Cunningham said about BRC. "It was 10 weeks of hellacious training."

According to Cunningham, at one point in the training he was up for an entire week and received a total of six hours of sleep during that time.

"Some guys were so tired. They were walking up to trees, trying to order food and slide their debit cards in the trees as if they were ATMs," Cunningham said. 

However, nothing the course threw at him slowed him down, and he finally graduated and became a reconnaissance Marine.

"I felt proud after completing all that training," Cunningham said. "I became the first person in my family in the military aside from my grandfather who was in World War II."

Getting down the basics is not the end of the line for a reconnaissance Marine in regards to training. Their lives, when not deployed, consist of classes, constant education on skills essential to mission accomplishment and countless days in the field.

"Some of the best training I ever had was in Korea and Hawthorne, Nevada," Cunningham said. "We learned how to set water charges, plant C-4 and received a lot of training in live fire exercises."

He was taught early on to continuously improve himself in every way he can. But one piece of advice has always stuck with him.

"I had a sergeant who used to always say, ‘Be the guy on the poster,’ " Cunningham said, referring to the squared-away Marines pictured on recruiting advertisements.

Cunningham said, he hears those words in his head every day, driving him to excel and strive to be his best.

During his free time, he still trains and keeps in shape by rock climbing, he said. There is an abundance of rock faces he frequents throughout Nago, he said.

Whether training to be the best reconnaissance Marine he can be, or training to be at his personal best, the bottom line for Cunningham is that he stays at the top of his game.