By Courtney Essett
San Diego — SAN DIEGO, Calif.— The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) has developed a reputation for being the best of the best and transforming men and women into an elite group of skilled warriors.
Last week, the corps put that process on display for educators from throughout the Midwest.
High school teachers, coaches, and counselors were invited to a Marine Corps Educators Workshop in San Diego, Calif., to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the corps conducts its boot camp and transforms recruits.
Educators from Indiana, Nebraska, and Iowa — including some from Hendricks County — were shown first-hand how recruits become Marines.
Lt. Col. Tom McCann of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) said, “The goal is not to make you fall in love with the Marine Corps. It’s to give you the facts. I think you’ll learn a lot about the Marine Corps.”
The educators were divided into groups, based on the recruiting station (RS) in their region. RS Indianapolis and RS Des Moines were each assigned a drill instructor who would show them a week in the life of recruits, by treating them like recruits.
“It’s going to be really fun,” Drill Instructor Staff Sgt. Suan Garrett said.
Garrett, a nine-year veteran of the corps, was assigned to RS Indianapolis.
“You’re going to see a lot of stuff,” he said. “Hopefully, out of this trip, you’ll get a better understanding of what it’s all about.”
From the time educators stepped off the Marine Corps recruits’ bus on Tuesday, they were treated similarly to how a brand new recruit would be. Meaning they were ordered around in an elevated voice by drill instructors, taking a version of the Marine Corps code of military justice, and taken to the Contraband Room to empty their pockets of their belongings.
Throughout the week, educators were given “briefings” or classes on everything from how recruits learn to handle a weapon to their version of fireside chats with their senior drill instructors.
“Everything they do is training,” MCRD Chief of Staff Col. Rob Gates said. “We try to build a good foundation.”
That foundation is what educators aimed to get a better understanding of and take back to their classrooms this fall. Earl Coleman, a guidance counselor from Portage, said he attended the conference to help his students make a more informed decision.
“I just wanted a better understanding of what the Marine Corps is all about,’ he said. “We have a lot of interest for students who may or may not or can or cannot go to college.”
Danvilleresident Jennifer Segner, a media specialist with Cloverdale Schools, also attended the conference and participated in the drills throughout the week. As a parent and educator with a son headed to college, she actively participated in the challenges presented to the attendees.
“I have a whole new understanding of what goes on here,” she said.
Educators were also presented with a unique opportunity to watch recruits as they returned from the capstone event of Marine Corps basic training called “The Crucible.” The Crucible consists of a 54-hour physical and mental test of the all the recruits have learned during their 13 weeks of training. During the Crucible, recruits are tested on only four hours of sleep and three meals. Upon its completion, recruits are officially referred to as Marines and receive the eagle and globe emblem from their drill instructor. The capstone is part of the overall mission of the corps.
Staff Sgt. Jason Gibson explained, “It’s success driven. No is not an answer. Boot camp is one of the hardest things, but your mind is more powerful. If you tell yourself that you can do something, you’re going to be able to do it.”
Just ask new Marine Kaechung Hou. The former recruit from Avon completed the Crucible on June 16.
“It was really busy,” he said. “ I kind of had to push myself to the limit.”
But the end result was worth it for Hou.
“Joining the military was kind of my childhood dream,” he said. “I felt I just made my dream come true.”
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series by Hendricks County Flyer reporter Courtney Essett who traveled to San Diego to report on the Marine Corps Educators Workshop.