Vets who met on way to boot camp graduate YTI together

Two veterans were among the class that graduated

Nov. 9 from YTI Career Institute Altoona.

The two had met before — on their way to Parris Island.

Michael Harf and Cody Johnson went to U.S. Marines boot camp together after they graduated from high school in 2010.

“Cody and I met for the first time on the drive to Pittsburgh where we were flying out for Parris Island. He was from Johnstown, so it was an instant connection that we had going into this whole thing since we were only 45 minutes from each other,” said Harf, an Altoona Area High School graduate.

“I didn’t know Mike until we both were picked up for boot camp by the recruiter. We rode in the car together going to Pittsburgh. It was a coincidence we ended up in the same platoon at Parris Island. Since our last names were close together, our beds were near each other,” said Johnson, a graduate of Westmont Hilltop High School.

Harp ended up stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and was attached to Combat Logistics Battalion 5. He was deployed to the southern Helmand Province of Afghanistan from March to August 2012, where he provided security as a machine gunner for logistical convoys through the Helmand Province.

Johnson was stationed with the 2nd Radio Battalion out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. He did two seven-month deployments with the Special Purpose Marine Ground Task Force Africa.

Then the men ended up at YTI Career Institute Altoona.

“I took the Computer Systems Technician course. It was an 18-month course. I enrolled in the course because I would be able to use the computer knowledge I gained in the Marine Corps to get a degree,” Johnson said.

Harf pursued a different course of study.

“I enrolled in respiratory therapy due to my curiosity of getting into a steady job field that wouldn’t take a huge toll on my body like the Marine Corps did. It’s a 21-month accelerated program that fit what I was looking for perfectly,” Harf said. “I ran cross country and swam in junior high and high school, so it intrigued me to know that I could enter a field where I’d learn all there is to know about the human lung.”

Harf recently accepted a full-time position as a respiratory therapist at UPMC Susquehanna in Williamsport, while Johnson is still looking for a job.

“My fiancee and I are planning to move to the New England area — not because of the Patriots — we just like the area. I don’t have a full-time job; right now, I’m applying to places,” Johnson said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.