Making The Few, The Proud: West Michigan teachers experience Marine Corps boot camp

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- Being an educator takes passion, dedication, patience and a lot of hard work. It may be no surprise that many of them are up to almost any challenge, even grueling military boot camp.

A group of Michigan educators were pushed to their mental and physical limits at Marine Corps Boot Camp in Parris Island, South Carolina. FOX 17 was able to tag along to document their journey.

Educators means teachers, guidance counselors, principals or coaches, among others. The idea behind the educator's workshop is to get a better picture of what the discipline and service of the Marine Corps is all about so they can take that experience back to their schools. What better way to learn than to experience it themselves?

"When I first heard about it I thought wow that's a great thing to do and I'm going to do it," said Chauncy Williams with Muskegon Public Schools.

"The experience was phenomenal and it was eyeopening," said Stacia Gill, a teacher with Grand Rapids Montessori High School.

Williams and Gill are just two of 23 teachers from Michigan who attended this year's educator workshop.

"We bring teachers and media down here to sort of have a behind the scenes look at how recruit training is conducted by the Marine Corps," said Sgt. Immanuel Johnson, marketing and communications chief for Recruiting Station Lansing.

"It helps them get a broader understanding of the different capabilities, different aspects and different pieces of what Marines do," said SSgt. David Dixon, Staff NCOIC of Recruiting Sub-Station Jackson.

For three days, educators learned everything about boot camp through the eyes of a recruit. That means drill instructors and starting the workshop on the yellow footprints.

Staff Sgt. Morgan Drinkard leads the educators of RS Lansing.

"We try to set the foundation for you guys," said SSgt. Drinkard, a drill instructor. "We teach you guys how to count and we make sure you guys move fast."

If they didn't count properly, move fast enough or yell loud enough, the educators were required to run and do other physical training.

"At first it was kind of rough for me, but I had to kind of get in the mindset that I'm here to build and learn and become better and learn the process," said Williams.

"The teachers know that this is only for like three days, so a lot of the times they laugh," said SSgt. Drinkard. "It's different for recruits because they know they have to stay here."

The educators learn over the course of the workshop how boot camp operates and how every detail has a purpose.

"I learned quite a bit about everything that they went through and all of the trials and tribulations they face," said Gill.

That means getting put through some of the physical training recruits do.

"Like they say, the few and the proud? I don't think everybody could do it," said Williams.

The educators get to witness combat water survival at the pool, a tour of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, a weapons brief and then the real thing. The educators head out to the rifle range and fire a couple rounds with the M-16 A-4 service rifle.

"We do provide transparency," said Sgt. Johnson. "It's sort of giving the teachers and the media lot of briefs and having them do the actual practical applications on stuff like shooting the M-16 A-4 service rifle or going through the crucible."

On day two, the educators get to check out the gas chamber and get a brief introduction to Marine Corps Martial Arts.

The most challenging part of the day: the confidence course.

"A lot of just facing down those obstacles and talking myself up to do them, that was probably the most demanding thing, just like trying to get myself to do them," said Gill. "That was hard."

The educators also got to watch part of the crucible, the culmination of recruit training where upon completion they become Marines. They also got to participate in the 12 stalls, where recruits have to work together as a team to complete 12 exercises that challenge them physically and mentally.

"What really stood out to me was the ending process, the crucible," said Williams. "That was a process. It's 54 hours of someone going through the whole process of being able to be a Marine."

On the last day, the educators attended graduation, getting to see the new Marines walk across the parade deck.

"I learned quite a bit about everything that they went through, all the trials and tribulations they face and really how strong they make them," said Gill. "They form their character, they form them physically and then they form them as a team."

"This week was a great experience to see a kid go through the whole developmental stage of being a civilian to being a Marine and showing them the process and all of that," said Williams. "These guys make Marines. They really do."

After the workshop, the goal is to have these educators return to their schools and classrooms and be able to explain to their students what the Marine Corps has to offer and what boot camp might be like for them. Also, they'll be able to explain some of the options and benefits out there for them if they're considering joining the military.

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