PORTLAND, Maine -- Many believe that a passion isn’t something that must be discovered at a young age and pursued throughout life, but that it can be found regardless of age and situation.
Rachel Hasty, a guidance counselor at the high school in Westbrook, Maine, recently learned this firsthand. For years, her passion was being an advisor to the student body, aiding in any issues that students come to her with and offering input about post-high school career options.
Then, early 2016, the herald for another passion arrived.
“A Marine recruiter came into the school with the opportunity to take someone down to Marine Corps boot camp for the Educator’s Workshop,” Hasty said. “One of our teachers went on the workshop in the early 90s and always talked about it being a great opportunity, so I volunteered to go for the school.”
The Educators’ Workshop is an annual “behind the curtain” program that takes high school faculty members to one of the two Marine Corps Recruit Depots, either in Beaufort, South Carolina or San Diego, California. Over the course of four days, the attendees are given a crash-course in what the Marine Corps is and what opportunities it affords young men and women.
“I knew nothing about the Marine Corps except that I thought they were all a bunch of hardasses,” said Hasty. “Knowing only that made me pretty intimidated about being around them on their base.”
Shortly thereafter, Hasty found herself on a bus in the dark of morning with 39 other educators from eastern New England. Their introduction to the recruit training process on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., was by way of a very loud drill instructor shouting for them to get off his bus in no uncertain terms.
This was the start of a three-day journey that would show the attendees portions of the recruit training process, allowing them to participate in training events such as the rappel tower and weapons handling. Throughout the event, they were able to interact with recruits in the beginning stages of the training and newly-minted Marines following their graduation.
“The first thing I learned was that there was a reason for everything, that the drill instructors aren’t being malicious just to be so; it’s all part of the transformation process,” Hasty said. “We did so much in such a short time, it was a challenge to remember everything we saw and heard to bring back to our schools. But the biggest thing that I took away from it was – I didn’t want to leave.”
Military enlistment was always an “abstract thought” Hasty explained. But she followed her passion, which lead her to be that educational advisor to a school’s student body. However, that abstract thought had ignited into something more when she was on the island.
“As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, something changed when I was there,” Hasty said. “It’s just a feeling, a want to serve. While waiting at the airport to fly back to Maine, I called my father and told him I was seriously considering joining. A week after I got back, I emailed that Marine recruiter about discussing options.”
Fast-forward to September of 2016, which sees Hasty standing in front of Army Capt. Bradley Bowling, the commanding officer of Military Entrance Processing Station Portland. She is reciting the military oath of enlistment which declares her part of the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program, which is a preparation program for Marine applicants to train ahead of their leaving for recruit training.
“She’s a very active participant in the [DEP] functions we run, and she’s a very level-headed individual because of her past experiences,” said Staff Sgt. Marco Hernandez, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Southern Maine, the office out of which Hasty enlisted.
Even with two Master’s Degrees, a decade out of high school and an independent lifestyle, she is still as nervous about what is to come as any newly-graduated 18-year-old.
“Definitely nervous, but excited,” Hasty said. “I started out on my own after high school holding multiple jobs and putting myself through graduate school, so I think I might be OK regarding discipline and focus, but it really remains to be seen.”
Hasty is enlisting into the Marine Corps reserves so she can keep her job as a guidance counselor at her high school while also fulfilling her desire to serve her country.
Hasty also hopes that being a female Marine will inspire those who might otherwise have misconceptions about what options are available to them, such as females being unable to complete recruit training. Additionally, Marines hold leadership positions at virtually every level of rank and responsibility, which is something Hasty feels will make her dual careers mutually beneficial.
“On the one hand, I’ll be able to better address questions from students regarding military service and what benefits there are,” Hasty said. “On the other hand, my experience as a counselor and time in the civilian sector can help those younger Marines if they seek counsel.”
Hasty will once again be on a bus heading through the gates of Parris Island this October, this time as a recruit fighting for her title as a United States Marine.
“I have a whole school who will know whether I make it or fail,” said Hasty. “So I can’t let myself fail.”