I am a government teacher at Bryan County High School. I would like share one of the best experiences I have had as an educator in the 25 years of being in the profession: the Marine Corps’ Educators’ Workshop March 6-9 at Parris Island, S.C.
A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a packed, exciting and educational excursion, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps. “Yes, ma’am,” “No, ma’am” and “Aye, ma’am” were three new phrases each of the nearly 33 educators, counselors and community leaders from South Georgia and Florida needed to learn. “Yes” and “no” were for answering questions, and “aye” was for responding to an order. Need I mention that these were said in the loudest, most enthusiastic voice possible or you were subject to a “do-over?” If we did not answer loud enough, we heard, “YEH RIGHT, YOU ARE MESSING WITH MY VOLUME!” Sometimes, we became a little confused and answered “Yes, aye, ma’am” in an effort to cleverly cover our bases.
We also learned to line up in proper formation, count off when ordered and march leading with our left foot. Many of us did not know the difference between our right and left feet. As we marched, we had to make sure that we were the proper distance between each other. Our drill instructor would call “Reach,” and we would extend our right arm to touch the person directly in front of us and call back “Touch.” We did get better over the four-day stay, however.
The Corps sponsors 10 Educator Workshops a year. These workshops provide attendees with the opportunity to get an up-close and personal look at what a recruit goes through during their 13 weeks of basic training. Each group was assigned a drill instructor to put us through our paces. Staff Sgt. Dunn was ours. She taught us that we were to listen to her above anyone else. Also assigned to us was a captain and a major. We were encouraged to ask questions whenever we had them. Brig. Gen. Lori Reynolds, commanding general, gave us a welcoming brief and told us that the biggest complaint she has heard from educators in the past was that the trip is too short.
Here are some highlights of my trip. We were up at 4:30 each morning, and had to eat breakfast and be on the bus by 6 a.m.
On March 7, we were taken to the “Yellow Footprints.” This is where Marines first are processed into life as a Marine. We then marched to the pool for water-survival demonstrations and then to the computer-simulated M16A2 service-rifle practice. Later in the day, we went to the actual firing range to shoot three live rounds (12 shots). Lunch was box chow with a recruit in the chow hall. I ate with Recruit Cobb from Moultrie. He was very respectful and excited to tell me everything he has done since he arrived. Before we met with the recruits, we were told not to feed them because all food was proportioned for them. This reminded me of when I went to Alaska and was told not to feed the bears.
A trip to the air station to see F-18s and speak to Marines about their jobs was very informative. Dinner at the Officer’s Club concluded our full day of activities. A reminder was given about being ready and in formation by 6 a.m. the next day.
March 8 began with a briefing by the personal trainers who work with the recruits for the obstacle course. Next, we were taken to the squad bay where the recruits live. It looked a little like the television show “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” It smelled a little like a locker room.
We were given the “recruit talk,” which is a motivational welcome to life as a recruit while sitting on the floor. We watched the motivational run by the recruits, which was led by Reynolds. This was the first time families would see their new Marines in 13 weeks. I must tell you that it was only 8 a.m.
The rest of the morning consisted of the museum tour, rappel-tower demo, basic warrior training and a video on the crucible. The crucible is a 54-hour culmination activity recruits must complete before being called Marines. Lunch was in the chow hall. The afternoon was filled with a martial-arts demonstration, confidence-course demonstration, pugil sticks practical application and a visit to the PX.
After a brief rest back at the hotel, we were taken back to the depot for dinner. Following dinner, we were given our nightly reminder that our last day, March 9, would be our late day. We did not have to be on the bus until 6:30 a.m.
March 9 was a day mixed with sadness.
As excited as we were to attend graduation, we knew our time at Parris Island was about to end. After we loaded the bus, we observed the morning colors ceremony. How amazing it was to listen to the Corps band and watch as a 30-by-50 United States flag was raised. Reynolds greeted the families and thanked them for the new Marines. Before we marched to graduation, we took a group picture with Reynolds and the mascot, an English bulldog named Legend, which achieved the rank of corporal.
A special section at graduation was reserved for us. It was a stirring ceremony where they went from being recruits to Marines. Their parents, friends and relatives were all on hand to cheer and share in the celebration. It was a great time to be an American.
Afterward, we went to the chapel and had one final briefing with Reynolds. She wanted to know if we had any final questions before we left and if we had any suggestions for future educator visits.
I highly recommend this experience to any educator or community leader. I am not from a military family and have no interest in joining any branch of the service, but I have a new respect for the Marines. Many misconceptions that I had about the Marines have been corrected. First of all, men and women are treated equally and have the same opportunities. Second, there are so many career choices available. People who join do not automatically become part of the infantry unless they choose. Lastly, for someone who wants a college education, the Marine Corps has several options that people can take advantage of while they are in the Corps.
I want to thank a few people who made this trip possible. I must thank Sgt. Estrada who invited me to participate in this workshop. Next, I must thank Dr. Dawn Hadley, principal of Bryan County High School, and Superintendent John Oliver for allowing me to attend the workshop. Last, I want to thank all of the men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps who organized and participated in this workshop to teach me about the Corps and the different options that the Corps has to offer.