PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA: After a rigorous day of travel from New Jersey to the United States Marine Corps Training Center here on Parris Island, our four East Brunswick High School counselors were fired up and ready to go, but matter how many times one has seen it in a movie or on television, nothing can prepare a person for what Marine Corps Basic Training is really like. Lisa Nelson, Bethany McAnneny, Lauren Rice, and Vanessa Amaturo met the challenge in this day full of surprises.
On the night before they stepped into the "yellow footprints" that form the traditional starting point for all new recruits, McAnneny said, "I am trying to get a better understanding of the culture of the armed forces. 1%of Americans are in the military." Nelson agreed, saying, "I am fascinated with the process. I am gaining an appreciation for what it takes. This is really eye-opening. I can't wait to observe tomorrow."
Observing, however, is not really part of the program. The Marine Corps Educators Workshop is all about doing.
Today, teachers were "Recruits-for-a Day." Breakfast at 5. On the bus at 6. Standing in the yellow footprints by 6:20. After that, anyone who thought they were in for a day of observing had another thing coming.
Drill sergeants put the new "recruits" through their paces: running, sprinting, kneeling. Educators worked out in the sand pit, performing exercises with alarming quickness yet with some level of confusion. The rapid-fire barks of commands and demands for loud responses, were part of the "shock and awe" of the first phase of basic training in which recruits are transitioned from civilian to military life. It is the goal of the Marines to develop "moral, mental, and physical discipline" in the recruits, who range in age from 17 to 28, instilling in them the character on which to build strength.
After an exhausting physical workout, the EBHS counselors, who are also joined at this session by EBHS 2007 graduate Christine Noppenberger, a counselor at new Providence High School, then attended classes held by officers, sergeants, recruiters, and teachers who explained the 7 requirements for graduation. Marine recruits must show proficiency in water survival; physical fitness; rifle; martial arts; academics (HS graduate); inspection; and completion of the "Crucible." The final event in the recruit's 70-day program, the Crucible is both a test of strength and problem-solving.
At lunch, a female Marine recruit who has recently completed the Crucible was one of many recruits who told the educators personal stories of their experiences at Parris Island. She expressed her sense of pride in the accomplishment, her eyes filling with tears as she described the sense of common purpose, strength, and intelligence that she and her "sisters" in her platoon shared during the event. Meeting the recruits "opened my heart to the real person in this situation. It helped me to understand my students a bit better and to help them with their choices," said one counselor.
After lunch, it was time for rifle training - first with air rifles and power-point targets, then with the real thing. Unlike other military groups, the USMC maintains the motto that "Every Marine is a rifleman." That means everyone, from cooks to colonels. For an afternoon, the educators took up rifles, firing them from the ground, while taking a knee, or while standing. Nelson, Rice, Amaturo, and McAnney took their turns with the rest, even taking the chance to use the weapons on a rapid-fire setting.
More running, then a sample of an MRE (Meal - ready-to-eat) then a trip to the pool to watch swimming qualifications. More running, then a tour of the aviation equipment.
It was a challenging day for guidance counselors, but one of inestimable value.
Superintendent Dr. Victor Valeski said, "Our counselors' attendance at the Marine Corps Educators Workshop in Parris Island is a testament to the professionalism and excellence in East Brunswick Public Schools. Lisa, Vanessa, Bethany and Lauren are about to be immersed in the life of a military recruit. Having had that opportunity myself when I joined the Air Force, some things are more meaningful when experienced firsthand. Our counselors will return prepared to share powerful and personal perspectives with students interested in military careers."