Kentucky Teachers Train Like Marines at Parris Island

By: Daniel Kemp Email
By: Daniel Kemp Email

For one week, Kentucky teachers became the students, as recruits of the United States Marine Corps.

Around 40 educators from across the state got the chance to experience life as a Marine recruit at the Parris Island Recruit Depot, in South Carolina.

It was all part of the Marine Corps Educators Workshop.

The mission was this--take the teachers to Parris Island, give them an opportunity to form their own opinions of recruit training and get a better understanding of how Marines are made.

"No one comes down here to fail. Everyone comes down here to be a United States Marine," explained Col. Jeff Peterson, chief of staff at the Parris Island Recruit Depot.

"These youngsters did not join the Marine Corps to be wallflowers," he added. "They joined the Marine Corps for excitement, for adventure, to be a part of something they could be proud of."

It's the beginning of a recruits life at Parris Island.

"It's a harsh environment, but it's a quality environment where youngsters learn and grow," Col. Peterson said.

But for four days, these school teachers from across the state will get a taste of what recruits face each and every day.

"In reality there's three choices for a child to go to after high school and that's work, college or the military," said Ray Austin, a teacher at Madisonville North Hopkins High School.

"The students I work with are probably not going to go to college. They need to have an opportunity to have someone come back and help them determine where they want to go and what they need to be doing," added Pete Phelan, a Hopkins County school teacher.

"We're not asking the teachers to be recruiters for the Marine Corps," Col. Peterson added. "We're simply asking them to come down so they can be informed on the opportunity."

It's a chance given to educators...

"To witness what the Marines do, to see what recruits go through and to see what opportunities they have," Phelan said.

And to experience all facets of training--from combat, to a recruits daily life.

"It's been life-changing," assured Mistie Bell, a Marine recruit from Princeton, Ky. "It's very eye-opening. It's tough, but it's instilling discipline and self-respect. It's been a positive experience."

Bell arrived on the island December 8th.

"It was actually a spur of the moment thing," she said. "I graduated from Murray State with a nursing major and I decided I didn't want to do that. So I decided to join the military."

At Parris Island, the educators got hands-on, firing M-16s and completing obstacle courses recruits train on everyday.

"It's been a wonderful experience--getting up in the mornings, getting on the bus, getting yelled at," Austin assured.

"This place here has reinforced the idea that I need to help my children decide it'd be a good idea to seek a military vocation," Phelan added.

It's a new appreciation for what so many knew so little about, as former recruits are able to begin their lives as United States Marines.

"When they first get down here, they don't want to be here. Yes, they want to go home, but they leave here knowing that they're leaving something behind that was a major milestone in their life," Col. Peterson said.

The Educators Workshop is an annual event at both the Parris Island Recruit Depot, as well as Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California.

As for Recruit Mistie Bell, she's expected to graduate from Parris Island on Friday.


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