Two Jackson County educators were approached by a local military recruiter about an opportunity to get a taste of what it takes to be in the Marines.
Drew Markel and Josh Shattuck applied for the Marine Corps Educators Workshop and were chosen to spend the first five days of this month at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California.
They were among 57 teachers, administrators and counselors from Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin learning about the process of turning a young adult into a basic-trained United States Marine. Recruiting Station Indianapolis sends one group each year, and all expenses are covered by the military.
“I really wanted to do it right off the bat because I’ve had quite a few kids go into the Marines,” said Markel, assistant principal at Crothersville Junior-Senior High School. “I flew out there last year to watch Gene Hodge graduate, and then to have the opportunity to go back and see what they did to get there, I wasn’t going to pass it up. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever been on. It was extremely interesting.”
Shattuck, a social studies teacher and the head football coach at Seymour High School, said he got to know the military recruiter, Sgt. Franklin Boone, after he put the football team through military-style training and team-building exercises this past summer.
When Boone brought up the educators workshop, Shattuck said he knew right away he wanted to apply.
“I’ve always believed strongly in the military,” Shattuck said. “I think it’s a great option for kids, and I wanted to educate myself more in-depth on it because I think as a teacher and especially as a coach, I’m always going to have a handful of seniors, and I’m going to have good relationships with those kids or long-lasting relationships with them where I know who they are, what they are about, what their grades are like. I want to be able to prepare those kids in the same way I would help them prepare to go play football in college.”
Once the educators arrived at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, they were greeted by a drill instructor before walking across the signature yellow footprints and going through processing.
They later attended classes to learn about the base and history of the Marines and went in the barracks, where they would be staying that week.
On the second day, they toured the swim center, where recruits are trained how to swim while wearing all of their gear. They then put on flack jackets, helmets and rifles and went through a half-mile bayonet course, which involved going under barbed wire and over logs in the sand. The day ended with a timed physical fitness test, which involved lifting an ammunition can over your head, carrying another person and running.
Shattuck said one of his favorite parts of the workshop was the physical exercises.
“They were very challenging, but that’s still fun for me,” he said. “I enjoyed the personal and physical challenges — some of the running with the gear on and the obstacle courses and things like that. How they incorporate the team building into that is really good.”
Another day involved going to nearby Camp Pendleton. The highlight was learning about M16s and shooting them at a firearms range.
“A lot of people from Indiana had done that before or had shot before, but we had quite a few people from Illinois and southern Wisconsin, probably half the group, that had never touched a gun,” Markel said. “It was really neat, and everybody tried it. Nobody said no.”
The next day, they visited with recruits during a Warriors Breakfast, toured a Marines museum and attended some classes.
Shattuck said he liked being able to talk to recruits.
“It was very powerful to see that transformation and just the way they interacted with adults compared to what they probably would have been nine, eight, seven weeks before that,” he said. “It was a truly incredible process they go through.”
On the final day, they watched a formal graduation ceremony for 390 recruits, who were at the end of their 12½ weeks of training. Markel said 15,000 Marines are trained in San Diego and graduations are conducted 46 weeks out of the year. They then have 10 days leave before starting infantry school.
After the graduation, the educators received certificates for participating in the workshop. That was a time for them to reflect on what they had experienced that week.
“When you’re sitting at the graduation, I couldn’t imagine the feeling that those kids were having,” Markel said. “It’s neat because you think about what we went through, and they had to do that for 12½ weeks.”
Shattuck said it was good to get a firsthand glimpse at Marines’ training.
“I’ve read a lot of military books. I’m a history teacher, so I know a lot of these stories,” he said. “But to see the actual process by which they take what you would call a civilian and turn them into a military member in 13 weeks, that was incredible.”
Other branches of the military offer workshops, and Markel and Shattuck encourage fellow educators to attend one.
“It was extremely eye-opening,” Markel said. “It really put a different level of respect, put it in perspective of what these kids are really doing. … I’ve had kids say, ‘I don’t think I could do boot camp.’ If I had already been through this, I could go back and say, ‘Well, yeah, you can. It’s not as bad as what you think. It’s bad, it’s hard, but you could do it.’”
Shattuck said it was very demanding time-wise, but it was time well spent.
“They don’t try to hide anything,” he said. “Their goal isn’t to make you like the military or like the Marine Corps. Their goal is to show you exactly what they do so that you are better equipped to answer questions that kids might have. … At the end of the day, I think it’s a great thing to be more educated about everything, and that’s one thing that I’m definitely more educated on than I was 10 days ago.”
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Each year, Indiana educators have an opportunity to participate in the Marine Corps Educators Workshop.
There is an application process, and if chosen, the military pays all expenses.
For information, contact Sgt. Tyler Mitchell, public affairs director with Recruiting Station Indianapolis and project coordinator for the workshop, at 317-549-6123 or [email protected].