CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- When high school counselors tour colleges, they step into the shoes of a student. However, college isn't the only option for graduates. Many are called to join the military. FOX6 News traveled with a group of educators as they stepped into the boots of Marines-in-training to get a glimpse of what boot camp is like.
While it takes years to become a teacher, it takes just 13 weeks to become a U.S. Marine. For three days, educators were able to experience first hand the extreme difference between the two sets of training.
Two teachers from Wilmot, one from Waterford, counselors from Racine and Cudahy, plus one Menomonee Falls principal went on the trip of a lifetime. They traveled into the field of Marine Corps boot camp. The mission was to experience first hand what it takes to earn the title of U.S. Marine.
"The process essentially hasn't changed in over 200 years, but there's a lot of fallacies and misconceptions out there on how Marines are made, and what we do here on the dept. We need to educate the educators. They need to see what we're really like. We're not the stereotypical Marines that you might see in the movies," Marine Sgt. Major Peter Siaw said.
Marines may be the country's first line of defense, but teachers are on the front lines, helping the nation's youth decide their future. "I've talked to every single student about what they're looking for, and military is always an option," Horlick High School counselor Kate Kulinski said. "It's kind of hard to talk to them when you really don't know exactly what it is they're going to be doing," Cudahy High School counselor Amy Oost said.
The educators, like 16,000 Marines every year, got a hands on approach through the Marine boot camp. Marine drill instructors describe the experience as a culture shock.
Once at the barracks, recruits are introduced to the men that will own their lives for the next three months. For the teachers, it was only three days, but there was still plenty of time for a little education, beginning with the Combat Fitness Test. The test involves running, crawling and carrying, and is a simulation of real battlefield conditions -- kind of like practicing a lesson plan.
After attempting to prove they are fit to be Marines, the educators participated in a little mixed martial arts.
As the day wore on, many of the honorary recruits began to feel not so honorary. "There are so many times that you would just want to give up, or that I wanted to give up. You're so terrified of the drill instructor that you just push through," one educator said.
Beyond the strength of mind and body, the U.S. elite fighting force must work as a team. Recruits are forced to succeed or fail as a unit. Being part of something bigger than yourself is a key component to training, and the educators said they felt that first hand. "I had no idea the extent of the training," one educator said.
Every Marine is a rifleman - a central doctrine of the Marine Corps. Recruits spend two solid weeks developing their marskmanship using an M-16. Educators had two hours - quickly moving from simulation to the range.
There is one portion only Marines get to see: the culminating event called The Crucible. After putting all their skills to the test over a 54-hour period, recruits arrive back from the hills and receive their Eagle Globe and Anchor Emblem and are called Marines for the first time.
Within a week, the school teachers, counselors and administrators have been exposed to the entire transformation: civilian to Marine, boy to man. At no point is that more apparent than recruit training graduation. "Extremely moving to see them talk to their families and their families going down to them for the first time. That really got me because, I mean, what a change in their son to see that man in front of them," Oost said.
For the educators, it was a graduation of their own. They were able to head home with an experience few ever receive. "I feel like I can really help prepare the students for what they're going to expect," Kulinski said. "I now have more of a perspective on what exactly they will do for their training and what kind of students might be a good fit for the military," Oost said.
"The teachers start laying the groundwork and the foundation for morals and values for these young men," Sgt. Major Peter Siaw said.