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Region's educators test mettle at Marines Corps Recruit Depot

After successfully completing many of the obstacle at the Leather Neck Square Confidence Course, Kristy Taralla of Anderson County Alternative School couldn't make it over the wall Thursday afternoon at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
After successfully completing many of the obstacle at the Leather Neck Square Confidence Course, Kristy Taralla of Anderson County Alternative School couldn't make it over the wall Thursday afternoon at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. BOB SOFALY | The Beaufort Gazette

Shedding his camouflage jacket, Tracy Johnson barreled toward the 7-foot-high wall, convinced he could overcome this infamous section of the obstacle course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

"I played football in high school and I've jumped a few fences, so I figured I could handle it," said Johnson, an arts teacher at Vance High School in Charlotte.

With more than 80 teachers and Marines cheering him on, Johnson bounded forward and leapt.

He tried to hoist himself up over the wall but had to drop back to the ground.

"It's a lot harder than it looks," he said, with a chuckle.

Johnson was one of more than 80 teachers and guidance counselors throughout the Marine Corps' 6th Recruiting District, which includes South Carolina, visiting the depot this week as part of the Educators Workshop. Once a year, educators are given a four-day trip to Parris Island to get a behind-the-scenes look at recruit training. The district's public affairs office pays for the trip, according to the Corps. The teachers are selected by the district public affairs office to attend the workshop.

"Ultimately, the workshops provide the educators a glimpse into our Marine Corps culture and what it takes to be a part of it," Lt. Sharon Hyland, Parris Island spokeswoman.

The depot hosts similar workshops for groups from other recruiting districts throughout the year, according to the Corps.

Since their arrival Tuesday night in Beaufort, the teachers have been marched around the depot by drill instructors, toured Parris Island's infamous Crucible and stood in the famous yellow footprints outside the depot's receiving building.

"We've marched a lot -- not well -- but we've been marching," said Jerry Bumbaugh, a vocational teacher at Crest High School in Shelby, N.C. "This trip has really been a great opportunity to see how the military works. We've been honorary 'junior Marines' this week."

The workshop will wrap up today after graduation, and many of the teachers said they will return home with a renewed respect for the military and the thousands of recruits who endure the rigors of boot camp each year.

"You really admire the discipline that is taught here and the respect everyone has for one another," said Heather Sparkman, an English teacher at East Lawrence High School in Trinity, Ala. "I know I have more respect for the military after coming here."

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