Teachers wanted to know about the military, for students. So they went to boot camp

Sgt. David Alvarado, a Marine Corps drill instructor, instructs high school teachers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana how to properly stand on his yellow footprints during an Educators Workshop on Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Aug. 16, 2016.


By S. M. CHAVEY | Pioneer Press | Published: March 4, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE) — A group of educators from the Twin Cities and surrounding states stepped off a bus at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego and tried to keep up as a drill instructor barked orders.

They stood on the infamous yellow footprints — the footprints that every Marine stands on when he or she first arrives at boot camp — and learned the proper way to address a drill instructor.

“You will scream at the top of your miserable lungs ‘Aye aye, sir,’ ” drill instructor Sgt. Trevor Woodruff said. When he yelled “ears” they yelled “open.” When he said “eyeballs” they said “click.” When he said “zero,” they responded “freeze.” When he gave them a command, they rushed to complete it.

“Obviously, the yelling was, for our age, kind of over the top,” said 55-year-old Dan Dymoke, a government and psychology teacher at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis. “You’re almost wanting to laugh. But if you were an 18-year-old recruit … it sets a tone.”

The yellow footprint experience was part of a five-day workshop the educators attended to gain a deeper knowledge of life in the Marines. They sat through presentations and participated in activities so they could tell their students back home about the Marine Corps.

“I have a lot of students who expressed interest in the military, and they oftentimes ask me questions or for guidance, and I really don’t know a lot,” said Shallyn Tordeur, an alternative-education coordinator at Delano High School. “This really kind of gave me an eye-opening experience to understand further what (the Marines) offer and understand my role in the district and help kids make decisions.”

Tordeur was one of 30 educators representing schools in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin. A group of educators from Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska attended the workshop as well.

The Marines have had an increasingly difficult time finding qualified volunteers, according to Lt. Col. Jesse Sjoberg, commanding officer of the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion. The Marine Corps want the valedictorians and star athletes. It wants the best.

“The biggest challenge is not getting out there and getting to meet them and showing them the benefits,” Sjoberg said.

He said the Marines want to get “folks that are actually capable of doing it, from a physical standpoint and from a mental and moral standpoint.”

The educators’ experiences in one week at boot camp were much more glamorous than the grind Marines endure for 12 weeks, but they still left with a deeper understanding of the branch and an eagerness to share that with their students.

One educator hopes to use part of the Marines’ history curriculum in his classroom. A group plans to put on a mini boot camp at its school. An athletic coordinator hopes to arrange a Marine fitness test at his school — similar to the one educators attempted in San Diego.

“I needed to really make sure that when I say ‘check out the military’ I knew what I was talking about,” Dymoke said. “I needed to put my money where my mouth was, which is why I took my 55-year-old body and ran the half-mile. If I can attempt some of this and come out standing, my students can, too.”

Educators flew to San Diego on Presidents Day and began the yellow footprint experience the next morning. During the rest of the week, they took the combat fitness test, ran a bayonet assault course, visited Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, listened to a Marine band, saw the educational center, shot rifles, spoke with Marines and attended a boot camp graduation, among other activities.

They also listened to presentations about tuition assistance, the emphasis on furthering education and the more than 600 kinds of jobs Marines do.

“There was a lot of insight as to how many different jobs they can set you up for and train you for,” Tartan High School athletics coordinator Chris DeCorsey said. “I think the more we can learn about the options our kids have for the future, both long term and short term, the better. As educators, that’s something that we owe them.”

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