Florida, Georgia teachers learn Marine Corps lessons on Parris Island

High school teachers attend boot camp to share experience with students

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Quan McWil, News4Jax news intern

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. - As high school students head back to school, much of their focus is on what they will do after graduation. One option is joining the military and they may turn to their teachers and educators for advice or guidance.

That's why the U.S. Marine Corps invited dozens of teachers from Florida and Georgia to boot camp on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, where they could learn valuable lessons to take back to students still deciding their futures -- and News4Jax went, too.

Recruits must endure 13 weeks of some of the most grueling, strenuous and painful tests before they can call themselves U.S. Marines. It's a journey that challenges them physically, mentally and emotionally. Those that make it all the way through, make the country proud!

"It's rough but it's worth it at the end," said Matthew Stewart, who just conquered basic training on Parris Island and has become one of the country's newest Marines.

Every year, some 19,000 recruits come through the receiving doors on Parris Island where they'll experience discipline and training like they've never seen. Invited teachers and educators got a small sample of that, spending four days learning as much as they could about becoming a U.S. Marine.

"Starting now, you'll be trained as a team. You will eat, sleep and train as a team. You understand?" said the drill instructor.

"Yes sir," the teachers all answered.  

We followed teachers from Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia -- Raines, Sandalwood, Fletcher and Charlton County, just to name a few.

"I'm just excited to be here to see what they have to go through," said Raines High School security guard Mary Smith.

"I want my students to know all the information going into it, not just going into it because they think that's the only thing they have for them," said Fletcher High School counselor Alyssa Greenert. "No it’s not for everybody, so I don’t want my students going in blindly just because they think that’s the only route for them."

While it was just a glimpse of what real recruits go through, the Marines taught the teachers some of the ins and outs of the military, some pros and cons, and the way the service can catapult someone into a lifelong career.

"The fact is, the teachers came here for a challenge. They didn't come here for it to be easy," said SSgt. John Stroman.

"We always say those who love us the most challenge us the most, and that's exactly what we do here," added 1st Lt. Mackenzie Margroum. 

SLIDESHOW: Recruits' first day on Parris Island

The Marines put the teachers through some of the same real-life scenarios' that recruits have to go through to give the educators firsthand experience they can take back to their students.

We saw where the recruits check-in, make one last phone call home, where they eat and where they sleep.

We went through fitness tests, running and swimming, the obstacle course, martial arts, the rifle range, even rappelled off a 50-foot tower.

And of course, the notorious Crucible -- an excruciating 54-hour final test where Marines must work together to survive in the elements with a lack of food and sleep. The Crucible is the culminating event that mentally and physically tests recruits, and it's the final step before becoming a U.S. Marine. 

The four-day experience on Parris Island was eye-opening.

"It was good and challenging and makes us become better people," said Sandalwood High School PE teacher Leslie Guzzone alongside Sandalwood health teacher Annalee McPhilomy.   

The USMC is constantly recruiting, budgeting about $200 million a year, according to the Department of Defense.

While not everyone can meet the academic, moral and physical requirements to join, but for those who do make it, the Marines want the teachers to pass along that the sky can be the limit. 

"I’ve never thought the military was for a lot of people. But after coming here to Parris Island, I learned from all their recruits, as well as people who are career military people, that there are ways for people to move up and make a career out of it," said Guzzone.

"Not everybody is ready to go into the workforce immediately, and this is a really good avenue for them for college tuition," said the dean of Palatka High School, Lucas Bennett. "It's just a really good way to want to serve your country, but to also see the world and have a good-paying job."

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