WTAJ Special Report: Making Marines Part 1

Teachers take on boot camp

Parris Island, South Carolina - It all started with a simple command. One second, teachers on a bus. The next, taking the first steps into becoming a member of the world's finest fighting force.

A group of men and women getting educated. Standing on the yellow footprints of the few, the proud, The United States Marine Corps.  

At the Parris Island Recruiting Depot in South Carolina, it's a different classroom setting. Instead of instructing and taking questions, these teachers are just took it all in. Answering with a simple yes or no and moving along.

Tom Fleming, Bishop McCort's Principal, understands it's for the greater good.

He said, "It took a little bit to get the mindset to perform as a team and work as a group, during some of the yelling of our drill instructor. But, there is a purpose behind it and we got an understanding of what that's all about." 

They also had a chance to understand other traditions Marines go through. For example, the final call home. A recruit's last chance to talk to there family before boot camp

And the squad bay, the place marines stay for their 13 weeks of camp.

But no tradition is as tough as the pit. A sandpit made to challenge your physical strength.

Fleming explained, "I'm not in the shape that I once was, and certainly not in the shape that these young recruits are in."

Windber Superintendent Joe Kimmel added, "Obviously I think it's better suited for a younger adult." 

And while the pit was the first introduction to the physical demands of a recruit, it's certainly wasn't the last. The confidence course is a true test for the educators of exactly it's title....confidence.

Hope Smith, Juniata Valley's High School Counselor said, "I surprised myself. I was going to try everything I could, whether I failed or not. I was going to attempt it."

From monkey bars to the slanted wall, this exercise made Conemaugh Township's School Resource Officer Michael Buncich truly appreciate the hardships of Marine recruits.

He said, "It made me feel my age." 

He added, "We wanted to get the most realistic aspect of the training for these recruits. Hats off to all to all of them because they all participated."

This wasn't just about taking a verbal beating and or even conquering physical challenges. This was about these educators becoming a valuable resource for students considering the military.

Major Andy Hornfeck explained, "We bring the teachers here for an opportunity to expose them to what the Marine Corps has to offer the young men and women that are in their schools." 

Hornfeck says that one of the common misconceptions about the marines is the quality of recruits they let in. 
The Marines say they will never lower standards so the number of the few and proud can sometimes get fewer. That's why, with this workshop, they hope educators can share the benefits of joining the Marine Corps to their highest achieving students.

Hornfeck explained, "Very, very focused on maintaining the same high degree of quality on the recruits we bring and train to make Marines. That can be very difficult when there are a lot of competitive worthwhile job options for young men and women." 

Worthwhile job options in the private sector can hurt recruiting numbers.

Hornfeck said, "At times like this where we have a healthy economy and unemployment is trending in the right direction, it gets harder and harder to find quality folks that are really looking for a way to serve." 

On a national level, the trend for the number of recruits has gone up while the unemployment rate has gone down. As the unemployment rate reached 4.85 in 2017, 37,802 recruits enlisted. At an unemployment rate of 5.4 in 2015, the number of recruits was 34,583. 

The quest to make sure these recruits coming in are high-quality helped inspire this opportunity for educators.

And for the teachers here the trip has not only paid off for their future students.

Kimmel said,"The experience here has enlightened me educationally and given me some ideas for my students and student opportunities. But also, I think that I'm going to be a better person, coming out of this." 

Part 2 of Making Marines airs Wednesday, February 7th at 11pm.  

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