Photo Information

Josh Lundgaard, an athletic trainer with Support Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, teaches a pack fitting class for recruits assigned to the recovery platoons of Support Training Company on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., October 19, 2023. Lundgaard has worked for the depot for over twenty years and has assisted in the recovery for thousands of recruits. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William Horsley)

Photo by Lance Cpl. William Horsley

How I Serve

22 Feb 2024 | Lance Cpl. William Horsley Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island

In 1988, Josh Lundgaard was attending college when he decided he needed a change in his life. Lundgaard said he lacked maturity and discipline in his life, so he decided to enlist in the Military.

“I realized I needed something to change,” said Lundgaard. “I needed to grow up.”

Lundgaard’s family had a history of military service in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, including his grandfather and father. However, Lundgaard chose to enlist as a reservist infantryman in the U.S. Army.

“Boot camp was my introduction to physical culture, to a physically demanding activity, physical training, and stretching,” said Lundgaard.

During training, Lundgaard was injured and neither himself or his peers could answer why those injuries were occurring or how to prevent them.

“I tried to ask questions such as ‘why is this happening,’ or ‘what can I do to avoid it,’ but I never really got any of that information,” Lundgaard explained.

After going through basic training and infantry school, Lundgaard was assigned to Fort Moore, formerly Fort Benning, where he assisted in basic training. During this time, Lundgaard continued to have personal issues with injuries but also began to see similar injuries in recruits going through training.

Due to his injuries Lundgaard completed one enlistment with the Army before exiting the service to attend college. While in college Lundgaard came across an exercise physiology class and spent a great deal of time talking to the professor about his own injuries and started getting answers to the questions he had been looking for.

“That was where I had discovered athletic training as a career,” said Lundgaard. “I had seen them at football games running out to take care of players, but I had no idea what they were or what their training was.”

Near the end of his study Lundgaard began to think back to his military service and wondered if there had been an athletic trainer available to him during his time in the Army if he may have been more successful.

“Maybe I could have actually been a little more successful, maybe I could have served longer, and maybe I would not have had the struggles I did,” said Lundgaard. “If I had known what I do now or if someone could have taught me this I could have done better.”

After graduating and receiving certifications for athletic training Lundgaard began working in secondary schools. During this time, he believed that eventually the military would see the value of athletic trainers and him and his wife watched the job postings maintained by the National Athletic Trainers Association.

“Then one summer my wife comes in one day and says ‘hey there is a posting for a military athletic trainer’,” said Lundgaard. “I then jumped up to check and sure enough and surprisingly it was with the Marine Corps.”

At the time, athletic trainers were a new concept in the military and the Marine Corps was the first service in the Department of Defense to begin hiring athletic trainers to work with servicemembers.

The Marine Corps hired six athletic trainers in 2003. Of the six, one was assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, one for School of Infantry East, one for School of Infantry West, and three to work on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

After over the phone interviews, verifying credentials, filling out intensive security investigation packets, and eight months of waiting Lundgaard was notified that he was hired and began working on Parris Island in.

For the past 20 years, Lundgaard has taught recruits how to improve their physical abilities. Day to day Lundgaard cares for the constant rotation of recruits that may become injured during training, teaching them techniques for safer training as well as for improving their overall performance.

For Lundgaard, it is an important job.

“Basic training is the foundation for all Marines,” said Lundgaard. “Taking the right steps here at Parris Island to improve training will have a great impact on their careers.”

Lundgaard said a secondary part of his job is to help motivate injured recruits and keep them on a path for recovery. He said he often explains to recruits that many of them came to recruit training for the challenge and due to their injuries, it will be more challenging than they envisioned. Lundgaard said he often takes inspiration from a Winston Churchill quote that he shares with the recruits under his care.

“When you are going through hell, keep going,” said Lundgaard.

After twenty years as an athletic trainer, Lundgaard said one of his greatest challenges he faces today is his own age. Lundgaard said when he began his career as an athletic trainer, most of the recruits he treated were 18 or 19 years old. Today, in his mid-fifties, Lundgaard admits recruits are all still the same age.

Despite this, Lundgaard said he doesn’t allow his age to prevent him from doing his job. Lundgaard works out with his recruits three times each week.

“I feel like I cannot stand up to a group of Marines or recruits and demand of them something I can’t demand of myself,” said Lundgaard.

Lundgaard said during his career athletic trainers have become a greater part of military culture. He said many athletic trainers who come in now want to provide care to servicemembers at elite units. But for Lundgaard, Parris Island is exactly where he wants to be.

“For me this isn’t a job,” said Lundgaard. “This is a calling. This is how I want to serve.”

Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island