Seven educators and a school resource officer from Bowling Green recently got to taste the military experience, complete with real ammunition and drill instructors shouting in their faces.
Unlike young people who enter the military, these eight were invited by the U.S. Marines Corps under a special educational program to receive a behind-the-scenes look at boot camp in Parris Island, S.C.
Karen Manley and Chris Decker agree that everything the Marine drill instructors ask the new recruits to do during their 13 weeks of training has a purpose. Manley and Decker, along with Dusty Croft, Chris Gage, Beth Marshall, Kami Howard and Angie Anderson from Warren County Public Schools and Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy Glenn Woodard, school resource officer at Warren Central High School, spent four days this month watching recruits being put through their paces at Parris Island.
The2:36 PM 1/19/2013 educators got to fire an M16 rifle and to hear the rapid-fire yelling by the energetic DIs. Unlike the recruits who bedded in barracks, the local people slept in a hotel and didn’t have to undergo the intense physical tests those Marines-to-be performed minute to minute prior to their graduation. While the recruits sweated and performed under the intense scrutiny of drill instructors, the educators and the deputy got to watch along the sidelines.
“I felt like I was at the zoo with my face pressed up against the glass,” said Manley, 42, program assistant for the Warren Central High School Youth Services Center.
“It was unreal,” said Decker, 44, athletic director at South Warren High School. “It was a great week.”
“Everything that they do during that 13-week process is for a reason, and I did not know that,” Manley said. “They want them to come home (after their tours).”
“I loved it,” said Anderson, 40, guidance counselor at Warren East High School. Her maternal grandfather, Paul Pruett, went through Parris Island years ago. “I have an appreciation for the military,” she said. The former girls basketball coach at Warren East got the lowdown on what to expect from her father, Dale Anderson, a Vietnam veteran.
“This helped me learn about the type of student who would be a good recruit for the Marines,” said Anderson, who is in her first year as a guidance counselor at Warren East after 15 years teaching social studies there and coaching.
“If I had a son 17, 18 years old, I would have no problem sending my son to Parris Island,” Decker said.
Croft and Gage are from South Warren, and Marshall teaches U.S. history at Warren Central. Howard is a physical education teacher at Warren East.
“I really enjoyed it,” Marshall said. “It really opened my eyes to all the options offered in the military and how the military can be the springboard to a career.”
Decker said he admired the forthright approach by the Marine trainers. “They look you right in the eye,” he said.
The educators, among 90 people from the Louisville and Cleveland recruiting districts, arrived at Parris Island in the early morning hours of Jan. 8. During their stay through Jan. 11, the Marines referred to them as “this educator,” and that’s how they responded to the drill instructors.
“The level of discipline that is taught is incredible,” Manley said.
Decker said he expected – and received – some yelling, but even knowing that it was going to happen still did not prepare him for how physically and mentally exhausting the experience is. And that’s just a small dose compared to what the recruits receive.
“We looked like the ‘Bad News Bears,’ ” Manley said. “I knew at the end of the day I was going back to the Holiday Inn.”
During a tour of the barracks, Manley ran her hand along the top of a mattress. “It was all springs,” she said, adding that the recruits had to endure hardship since they might be sleeping on the ground with no mattress or pillow in a foreign land someday.
The educators got to fire the M16. Decker, who hunts with a Winchester .30-.30 rifle, said he didn’t do too bad. Manley, who doesn’t hunt at all or target shoot, said she got a 90 on the simulator but didn’t hit the target during the live fire exercise.
Marshall said she hit one of the 20 targets in the live ammo test. Having not picked up a gun since she was a young teen in conservation camp, Marshall said she was pleased with the effort.
Manley said “The Crucible,” a 54-hour hike and physical test for the recruits just prior to graduation, was something to see. It’s the only time the Marines train co-ed. “They take them out at 2 a.m. and they hike,” she said. “They only got four hours of sleep a night.”
Marshall said the trip was an opportunity for her to see that many things people say about the U.S. Marines aren’t true.
“I got to debunk some myths,” she said. “They earn the title of a warrior. It was a very humbling experience for me.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services