MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
The buses were full of anxious people as they were getting closer to Parris Island. The weather was icy cold as they looked out the windows of the bus. The sun was rising over the swampy area they were about to enter that would change their view of life as they knew it. No, these were not the next young men and women to become United States Marine Recruits, but these were the teachers, counselors, principals, administrators and media who were attending the Marine Corps Educator Workshop.
Teachers like those from Catoctin High School, Potomac High School and Gaithersburg High School were willing to take time out of their schedules teaching and guiding the youth of our upcoming generations to become educated themselves. They were able to travel with the Marines from Recruiting Station Frederick, Md., and see what their former students who enlisted in the Marine Corps were doing to change their lives, Jan. 18-21.
“The men and women I talked to really were honest about the experience and certain about their choice to join the Marines. I saw a tiny bit of what they had to endure to get there and it was gratifying to hear people say it was all worth it,” explained MaryEllen Newcomb, a teacher at Catoctin High School in Thurmont, Md.
From stepping on the yellow footprints to shooting the M-16 A2 Service Rifle, the educators had the opportunity to live the lives to an extent of what the recruits do daily. The ability to learn what truly is happening in the making of a Marine gives these educators a better outlook to answer questions about what it takes to be a Marine when asked by their students. This program, one that is done for all 48 recruiting stations across the nation, has been around for more than 30 years now.
There is more to learn about Marine training than can be encapsulated in a mere four days, but the EW participants have one of the best civilian opportunities. They went through learning how to properly march to cadence from drill instructors, to attempting some of the obstacles and challenges recruits faced. The educators were given an edge on the crucible events as they were not sleep and food deprived as the recruits are on this culminating event. There were groups of educators who attempted to work together as the recruits would to accomplish the goals set in front of them. Not all of them succeeded but others were able to accomplish the obstacles with great teamwork. Participants such as Melissa Zetts, a teacher at Gaithersburg High School in Gaithersburg, Md., was one who tried anytime she could to experience the reality of what the recruits were doing in their daily training.
“The most memorable part for me was probably seeing the recruits during the Crucible. It was especially sobering to see them in the sand, while hearing the soundtrack from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ overhead,” explained Zetts. “That was a defining moment for me during the entire experience, and I think that I will be able to better explain the severity and discipline of what takes place there.”
After going through many of these obstacles on the obstacle course and through the crucible, educators such as Mark Williams, a guidance counselor from Potomac High School, asked, “Hey, do you think I have what it takes after doing these obstacles?”
“Meeting with the recruits allowed me to understand the training through their eyes. Also, seeing the recruits in action helped to know what the Marine Corps really does,” explained Williams. “I also learned more about the overall Corps that I was not previously aware of by the time Friday came around. One of the most impressive parts of the week was the interaction with the Drill Instructor. If I was only 20 years younger.”
Seeing the recruits with families on Thursday’s family day, was a great connector to seeing newest Marines graduate on Friday morning. The educators seeing the young men and women who were very possibly their students a few months before, were truly touched in what they saw them become in their transformation from civilian to Marine.
“It was also really neat to have lunch with the recruits. I think this was crucial to the whole experience because it really brought home the idea that some of my current students could be in this very same place in a matter of months. It made me excited to talk to them once I returned,” Zetts explained.
Overall, the most recent EW was a great learning opportunity for those people who have taken it upon themselves to teach the children who will soon be taking leaders of this nation. The willingness of the participants has created a greater opportunity for the young men and women to be more educated about the options available to them when they finish high school and are looking for the next step in life.