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Marine Recruiting Program Takes Educators to School

Instead of teaching school, a group of U.S. educators recently attended school. They went to Parris Island, South Carolina where they took part in a workshop to learn about U.S. Marines Corps basic training, also known as boot camp. VOA's Deborah Block was there.

U.S. Marine Corps basic training is the hardest and longest of all the American armed forces. Three months of grueling boot camp -- for both men and women -- prepares these young recruits for war, especially in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Twelve weeks each year, the Marines Corps pays the expenses for groups of high school and college educators to come to Parris Island for several days to learn what recruits go through to become Marines. The idea is that if they like what they see, then they will recommend the Marine Corps to their students.

Recently, about 50 educators from the Washington, DC area came to Parris Island. A few had served in the military or grew up in military families. Most knew little about boot camp except that it is tough.

The educators watched the recruits' intense training and later tried out a challenging obstacle course. Special education high school teacher Lisa Ushery from the state of Maryland grew up with a father who was in the U.S. Navy.

"Getting up early and doing some of the exercises that they do was exhausting so I can't imagine what they're doing. I just have so much respect for the people who train and educate the Marines."

Some recruits ate lunch with the educators, including Angela Jenkins, a high school career counselor in the state of Virginia. "The recruits seemed to be very disciplined and it just seems like an awesome program."

She bumped into 20-year-old Rafael Negron, a graduate from her school. He says the training is hard but worth it.

"It not only builds confidence but extreme discipline. It allows people to show how much they've grown up for the past three months."

The educators watched the drill instructors yelling at the recruits during training to keep them in line. The teachers got a taste of what it feels like to get yelled at during their own combat exercise with a drill instructor.

They also learned how to shoot an M-16 assault rifle.

Andrea Lafinara is a career counselor at a high school in Virginia. "I think it's amazing how they are taking us out here and giving us a look at what goes on here. And we get to see what the recruits do and actually try some of the things ourselves. I think it will help us work with our students and that we can explain to the students what goes on here if they have questions."

Mary Ann Shirts, a college administrator, says the Marines Corp may be good for some students who do not know what kind of job they want to do. "You learn a lot of discipline, you learn teamwork, so many valuable things you learn in the military that you take with you your whole life."

Trisha Leggett says while she respects the Marines, she is not in favor of the U.S. being in Iraq. "I don't like the idea of our young men and women being in Iraq. I don't like the idea at all. But when they (the recruits) are here I see they are getting the confidence that they need. They're here because they want to be here."

High school career advisor Scott Woo is also against the American presence in Iraq. But after four days of learning about boot camp and attending a recruit graduation ceremony, would he be more likely to recommend the Marine Corps to his students? "I wouldn't say more likely but I have more knowledge now to share information about what Marine life is all about."

The Marines Corps says it is reaching its annual recruitment goals. But as the war in Iraq drags on and public support declines, the Marine Corps is hoping educators like these will help bring in new Marines.