MCRD Parris Island, S.C. --
Every year, more than 20,000 men and women are recruited and sent to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., with the hopes of becoming a United States Marine. It is on this island that recruits endure 13 weeks of “boot camp,” which is arguably the most physically and mentally challenging basic training of all the uniformed services.
Forty educators from high schools located throughout the greater Maryland area recently got an up-close and personal view of how America makes its Marines.
This was made possible by an annual event called the “Educators Workshop.” This event is funded by the Marine Corps to send teachers and faculty from high schools across the country to either MCRD Parris Island or MCRD San Diego with the intent to offer educators a practical knowledge of the Marine Corps and impress upon them the continual need to recruit highly qualified men and women.
On the first morning of the workshop, educators went through an authentic simulation of what recruits go through upon arriving on Parris Island. The educators were transported to the Island from their hotel on a bus, just like incoming recruits. As the bus finally came to a stop in front of the processing center on Kyushu Street, a large, burly Marine wearing the iconic campaign cover, boarded the bus.
“Sit up straight and listen to me!” the drill instructor screamed. “Now all of you scream, “Aye, sir!””
For the next 20 minutes, the educators from Maryland experienced what every young man and woman endures when they arrived at Parris Island – chaos. Drill instructors screamed commands at them. If the educators did not follow the commands fast enough and respond with the appropriate answer of “aye sir” at a volume high enough, then the drill instructors made the receiving process more drawn out and stressful. This was their introduction to Parris Island.
Steve Cahoon, a technology education teacher at Severna Park High School in Severna Park, Md., described that first encounter with a drill instructor as exhilarating.
“The entire time in the bus ride over all I could think is what it would be like to be 18 years old, freshly plucked from my parents’ basement where I had been playing video games all day and 24 hours later in the middle of the night to be experiencing that,” said Cahoon.
Throughout the next three days, the educators from Maryland participated in and observed many of the same activities that recruits would participate in such as firing an M16A4 service rifle on the rifle range and rappelling from a 47-foot tower. They were given tours of the barracks or “squad bays” that recruits live in and were even able to sit down and eat a meal with recruits from Maryland, some of whom were from their schools.
“I was very impressed,” said Christina Keeler, a guidance counselor at Sussex Central High School in Georgetown, Del. “There was one (recruit) who had only been there seven days and one about ready to go to the crucible. I was just impressed with their manners. Even the one who had been there seven days, just how respectful he was.”
Just like recruits on Parris Island, the educators were always accompanied by a drill instructor. Staff Sgt. Cheryle Milton, who acted as a tour guide except this tour guide did not smile or make casual conversation with the tourists.
Although she was there to guide the educators through the different activities, she gave them a relatively watered down representation of how drill instructors train recruits. Milton had the teachers march in formation and penalized them whenever they did not move fast enough or respond with the appropriate volume.
“I really appreciated Staff Sgt. Milton,” said Keeler. “It was a little taste of what the recruits see. Obviously it is not as much as they get. At the time we were like, “Ah really?!” But then we kind of appreciated it and respected her.”
In addition to the different activities the educators participated in, they also received a lot of time in the classroom where they received information about educational benefits and other opportunities for advancement in the Marine Corps.
Cahoon said he now plans on sharing with his students how joining the Marine Corps is a viable option, especially if they are looking to attend college, but do not have the money to pay for it.
“It is an amazing opportunity that students, I think, really should try to take advantage of if they can,” said Cahoon. “It will teach them an enormous amount about themselves in a very short amount of time and I think just add to their resume as they move through college and separate themselves from the other students they sit next to every day.”