Monday, April 10, 2006

Ohio teachers and the Marine Corps

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PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — Not long after sunup, two buses full of educators roll through the gates and over the marsh. The Marine Corps invited them here to see boot camp as it really is.
"I’ve been thinking about this all night," a guidance counselor from Grove City High School said at breakfast. "I’m terrified."
The buses stop in front of the receiving center, where every recruit starts the 12 weeks of boot camp. The escorts tell the educators they have one last chance to get off like civilians. They all stay on.
Gunnery Sgt. Theresa Groves climbs on the first bus, and it begins.
"SIT UP STRAIGHT! When I tell you, you are going to get off my bus … getoffmybusrightnow! Get off TODAY! Faster! Faster! Right now! "
The words blur. She’s yelling twice as fast as a normal person talks, and suddenly a staff sergeant is yelling from the bus door, too.
"Stop running now and move fast! Fasterfasterfaster! "
It stops sounding like words and becomes noise. New recruits don’t need to know exactly what is being said, they just need to be scared of it.
Groves yells the educators through the doors — "You will walk through my silver hatches!" — and yells them into metal seats at metal desks.
"You are done moving!" she screams.
Then there is silence, and Col. Steven D. Hogg steps out. It’s over.
"Are we okay?" he asks.
The guidance counselors, school administrators and teachers seem to start breathing again, and a few laugh.
"Welcome to Paradise Island," he says.
Marine leaders decided about a decade ago that years of Full Metal Jacket were giving civilians the wrong impression of the Corps. Teenagers wouldn’t volunteer for something they thought was heartless.
So the Marines began inviting some of the people who have the most influence over high-school kids to Parris Island, the only location for basic Marine training in the eastern United States. The educators could judge for themselves and tell their students what they saw.
"There are no secrets here," said Brigadier Gen. Richard T. Tryon, the Parris Island commander, in a talk with the educators.
The educator workshops run 12 weeks per year on the island. Last week, about 75 people from West Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio, including a dozen from the Columbus area, made the trip. The most knowledgeable among them had been in the Army for 14 years. Some of the rest did not know a sergeant from a colonel.


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