They Make Marines-Brittany Rose Experiences Parris Island
Educator Workshop. Doesn't sound all that interesting, does it? What if I said this workshop involves obstacles, being yelled at, and watching young men and women transform into Marines? Sounds way more awesome, right?! Well, attending the Educator Workshop is exactly what I had the opportunity to do. Last Tuesday I hopped a plane from Maine to Georgia with a group of teachers from the area, a co-worker, and a few Marines. When we arrived in Savannah, GA, we (the Portsmouth group) waited around for what would become our rivals, (because everything has to be a competition, right?!) The Springfield group.
These groups are comprised of "influencers" (eek, I hope no one is being influenced by me!) mostly high school teachers, counselors, coaches, with some media folk, and some others sprinkled in. We all piled onto the white Parris Island buses and got our room assignments at the Holiday Inn in Beaufort, SC, a short drive from Parris Island.
Once settled we gathered together for dinner on Parris Island at Traditions, a restaurant/bar. I remember watching the sunset off the back patio, soaking up the warmth and being excited for the "vacation" I was about to face.
I knew about the "Yellow Footprints". As any good millennial, I YouTubed footage and sought council from Wikipedia. I expected to stand there, get yelled at a bit, just as a sample of what recruits go through. Boy did I underestimate that! Now keep in mind, I may LOOK in shape. But I'm not. I'm REALLY not. I'm also not a morning person, and this was approximately 0700. So there I am, standing, waiting. Before I know it I'm sprinting. I somehow was at the front of the pack, a female Drill Instructor's voice bellowing behind me. "I've got this." I thought. Again, I was wrong. We ran. Turned around. Kept running. Got in formation. The formation always seemed to fall apart. Back together. People weren't listening. WHY CAN'T WE GET THIS RIGHT? Still getting yelled at. Yelling back. "AYE MA'AM!" When we heard "READY?!" We yelled back, "PAIN!" Sound confusing to read? It was confusing to experience, again, early in the morning, and panting from my out of shape-ness. This isn't done in error. When recruits arrive this is just a sample of the overwhelming beginnings of training. This is what it takes to begin to transform a young adult into a Marine.
We then went inside where the recruits handle their paperwork and make their one, scripted phonecall home.
As the day continued I thought the physical activity was behind us. Again, I was wrong. Off we went to "the beach." This is where some really attractive photos of me emerged and I thought I might actually die. Ok maybe not actually die, but close. Excercise is difficult on its own but in sand? Yikes! One member of the group caught it all on camera. Check it out below!
The day carried on in much of a blur. I saw and experienced so much. I did not expect the Marine Corps to have a band. Well, multiple bands. You see, they have an incredible music program. The members are referred to as "The Pride of Parris Island." They're fully trained Marines, ready to be called to duty at any moment but their job is music. What a great opportunity for musicians! They don't let just anyone join. There's a rigorous audition process but does it pay off! They get to attend the music school and many leave knowing another instrument! They travel the world in various ensembles and members are always present at graduation to perform. If you want to follow your musical passion and serve at the same time, get the details here.
We went to one of the chow halls for lunch and had the opportunity to sit down with some recruits. I sat with a young gentleman, 18 I believe, who had been at Parris Island for just two of his twelve weeks. He was very polite and direct with his answers, "Yes, ma'am." "No, ma'am." As I expected, knowing just a bit of what this young man had been through so far. He noted that he joined because he wanted a challenge and he knew earning the title of Marine would be just that.
That afternoon brought an activity that I had really been looking forward to. Shooting an M-16A4 rifle. We met at the range and learned some basic safety, how to look through the ACOG rifle scope, and the importance of a Marine's rifle. Read up on some of the incredible history here. Shooting was so much fun. I had gone shooting before but nothing of this caliber. I don't think I actually hit anything, but my helper said I did a good job. He was probably just being nice. And since everything is a competition, it's worth noting, despite Portsmouth being a smaller group, we kicked Springfield's butt by over 30 target hits!
We got to visit the giant indoor training pool where we watched some demonstrations from the Marine Corps Instructors of Water Survival (MCIWS). I watched in awe as I, a doggie paddler, witnessed these Marines swim with gear and simulate a rescue. I also learned how they can use their pants as a flotation device! We then drove to their air station to gawk at some jets. We ended the evening at the Officer's Club for dinner. Rumors had been circulating around my group about this particular place and the "secret" room behind the bar, "The Santini Room" which apparently got its name from the 70's film, "The Great Santini" which was filmed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. What made this infamous room unique is the back half of the room was covered in broken beer bottles. It's tradition to throw your bottle against the wall and, if it doesn't break, the next round is on you! For the record, mine did break, but only once it hit the ground. Oh well!
Here's what I captured of the day:
And my thoughts of the day:
The first major activity for the next day was a goosebump-inducing one. Thursday was Family Day. The day before graduation where the new Marines are finally reunited with their families. The first event was the "Moto Run". The Marines ran a 2.2-mile loop with their platoons while their families cheered them on. Not gonna lie, I got choked up. Being immersed in that world and seeing the recruits who are just a couple weeks in and then seeing these new Marines was beyond powerful. I could now see the dramatic transformation and the immense pride each and every Marine, and their families, now possess.
From there, we moved on to the Museum on base before the official kick-off to Family Day where the Marines came in and were dismissed by their Drill Instructors to spend time with their family. Again, goosebump inducing! We then ventured to the obstacle course. They opened up some of the courses for us to try and despite doing something to my knee at some point, I (mostly) successfully completed the ones I attempted! They encouraged us to use our "war cry" to intimidate the obstacle, making it less scary, and I think it worked! Captain Keith, the friendly face guiding us through our journey explained that recruits do the obstacle course early on in training and really struggle, but they bring them back weeks later and they crush it! How cool is it for the recruits to experience such a tangible change?
The next stop was the Leadership Training course. Think of it was an escape room for the military. We were split into teams (Portsmouth vs. Springfield, of course) and given identical assignments to figure out and execute! The assignments included an objective, some rules, and room for interpretation. Our first mission was to get a 50-gallon drum over a wooden wall of sorts and then get all of cour team members over as well. We only had two ropes and the wooden structure was painted with strategically placed red squares representing mines. You touch, you "die" and have to start over. It was so fun, even though I did die, once. We did 3 total and yes, we beat Springfield.
Next, we moved to the gas chamber. There was a recent gassing so we got to experience the fumes. Apparently, this is a no-no if you're wearing contacts so I sat that one out. It was primo people watching, though! The next chunk of our day consisted of the infamous, "Crucible". No, not the movie about The Salem Witch Trials. The Crucible is the event the recruits have been preparing for since day one. It's a 54-hour event with limited sleep, limited food, and maximum physical and mental stress. We were lucky enough to see a couple of the events. The first was martial arts, every recruit earns the equivalent of a tan belt while in training. During the crucible, they have an event where they fight which was thrilling to watch. Later we watched what I can only describe as a simulated battlefield. The recruits were in full gear crawling through the dirt, under barbed wire. I was exhausted just watching them and I learned they would be doing it again during the night. The same recruits I saw on Thursday would be going almost non-stop until early Saturday morning. Then they'd enjoy an incredible breakfast then in an intimate ceremony, are given the official title of, Marine. The recruits then have two more weeks at Parris Island, focused on mentoring.
Check out the highlights I captured of the day:
And my final thoughts of the day:
That brings us to the final day. Graduation. We got to see the colors ceremony and the graduation. Both incredibly moving.
That was the trip in a nutshell, I left out a lot. The laughs, the new friendships, and so much of what goes into making a Marine. If you have any questions or if this sounds like something you would like to tackle, let me know! I will personally introduce you to some awesome recruiters. Heck, 92 Moose shares a building with them! I'll walk you over myself!