Earlier this month, 55 other educators and I had a unique opportunity to spend three days at the US Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. About 50 percent of all male Marine recruits and 100 percent of all female recruits receive their Basic Training there. We visited the recruit depot as part of an annual series of Educators Workshops which the Marine Corps offers. We had an amazing amount of access to all facets of the process, including an up-close-and-personal orientation experience showing us a bit of what it’s like at the Yellow Footprints for recruits at the beginning of their training.
It was my third (and probably last) opportunity to visit Parris Island. First a disclaimer: I am NOT objective about this place. IMHO the Marines develop an elite military branch through an intentional, strategic and thorough process. Its recruit training is longer than the other service branches, and it covers physical conditioning and marksmanship more extensively than the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
At the conclusion of the Educators Workshop, I asked my fellow educators for their observations and “lessons learned” with me. Here are a few of their observations:
“The physical demand to become a Marine is real,” says Cory Brady, a teacher in the North Royalton Schools. “Train your body; get on a healthy diet before arriving.” “Get in shape physically,” adds Carol Pluess, LPC, Coordinator of Career and Assessment Services at the University of Akron’s Wayne Campus. “This includes learning how to swim if you don’t know how to do so.”
Another key point – Take advantage of the many educational opportunities which are provided. We learned that Marine recruits can earn up to nine hours of college credit by completing their Basic Training. Additionally, Marines can attend college online or “live” depending upon their duty posts, and study for additional credit toward a degree while on active duty. For some young men and women (and their families) the Marines then offer a very swift pathway to a college degree or a certification (Police, Fire, EMT, etc.) after military service without debt.
There is a third dimension which several of us discussed during the Workshops. College right after high school is NOT for everybody. There are dozens of varying motivations for high school students. Some may want to get into the most selective of colleges or universities and plow head with studying for first a bachelor’s, then an advanced degree.
Others are wired differently. They may not be academically ready yet for college. They may prefer to not pursue college and instead seek technical or professional careers. We met and heard from jet aircraft maintenance personnel who are thrilled about their MOS (jobs) in the Marines and know that their skills can lead to good careers once they leave military service.
Speaking of jobs, the Marines offer far more options for recruits than many of us realized. We saw plenty of the Parris Island Marine Band during our time in the Educators Workshop. Musicians can enlist in the USMC and continue playing their instruments in a variety of bands. There are also career opportunities for graphic designers, photographers, and other specialty areas.
One final important component which we learned is this: Marine recruits have a drive, an unquenchable determination, admirable distinctions in today’s society. High standards force recruits to achieve more, and they learn to de-emphasize self and focus on teams and team-building, collaboration, and discipline. These are highly desirable attributes on a battlefield , ones which can save many lives. They are also excellent characteristics in the “real” world of companies and organizations where careers begin.
The Few … the Proud … the Marines is much more than just a slogan. It’s real, and it exemplifies what we saw, heard and felt in the recruit process at Parris Island. From the Commanding General on down to the newest recruits – and we spoke with hundreds of Marines and recruits during the workshop – the elan of the Marines is genuine. For young adults who might not have been “tops” in their high school classes with their GPAs or awards, the US Marine Corps is a place where they can be a part of the very best.