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03-23-05, 06:23 AM #1
Teachers get taste of life in the Corps
Teachers get taste of life in the Corps
Experience at camp can be passed on to students
By MIKE BILLINGTON / The News Journal
03/20/2005PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. - Tomica Fletcher came off the rifle range at Parris Island wearing blue jeans, a Marine field jacket and a big smile.
"I did pretty good," she says. "I hit four out of five targets. Of course, I think I'm a better shot with a pistol."
Fletcher, an aide to the administrator for discipline at Mt. Pleasant High School, is one of about 40 educators from Delaware and Maryland spending four days in March at the Parris Island boot camp. While here, they fire M-16s on the rifle range, eat in the mess hall, march in formations and talk to recruits. The workshop is designed to give them an idea of what it takes to become a Marine.
"Now that I've seen what the training is like and learned about the Marines, I feel I can better answer a student's questions about it," she says.
Every year since 1997 the Marine Corps has run similar educator workshops between November and May at both Parris Island and the West Coast recruit training base in San Diego. The workshops, during which teachers and guidance counselors are treated in much the same way recruits are, are designed to counter myths about the Corps.
"We want people to know that we're not just about throwing hand grenades," says Sgt. Jeffery Gonzales, a Marine Corps recruiter from Newark. "We want people to know that these days, because of the more intensive screening of recruits and the fact we're more selective than we were, that it's a privilege to be a Marine. These workshops also give teachers the opportunity to see how we mold young men and women into Marines during boot camp."
The workshops are not a recruiting tool, says 2nd Lt. Scott Miller, a Parris Island spokesman. But, he adds, "It does help us get our story out to the public and lets them develop a more informed opinion of the Marine Corps."
Most of the educators who made the March trip have never served in the military.
"I didn't know what the whole process was going to be like when I got there," says Glasgow High School teacher Rob Mendenhall. He learned quickly enough. On arrival, the teachers are ordered off their bus and made to stand at attention on a series of yellow footprints painted on the street.
"That set me for a spin," Mendenhall says, laughing. "I'd never been yelled at like that in my entire life, not even by my parents."
John Okneski, a teacher at the Delaware Military Academy, is impressed with the recruits' "discipline and their commitment, and certainly with their sense of patriotism for this country."
"I got the impression that they live, eat and sleep being Marines," he says.
Okneski, who did not serve in the military, says he would go on another workshop. "They were honest about the training and about how they have not met their recruitment goals for the past couple of months. This workshop was a useful way to give students a more honest evaluation of what happens on Parris Island and about the specific missions of the Marines."
Ogechi Nwanekwu, a teacher at Christiana High School, works with students who have high truancy rates. "From my perspective, I work with a lot of students who don't know what they want to do with their lives," he says. "I now know enough about the Marines and what it can mean for them as a career to talk about it."
"People go there and they mature very, very fast - whether they want to or not," he says. "For someone who is looking for something to hold on to, who is looking for a sense of belonging, the Marines might be a good place for them."
Contact Mike Billington at 324-2761 or email@example.com.
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