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Shelby County students with questions about what it's like to be in the Marine Corps now have two teachers upon whom they can rely for first-hand knowledge.
Construction teacher Walt Wilson and physical education teacher Todd Shipley each spent the past week visiting the Corps' recruit training depot in Parris Island, S.C., as part of an educators workshop designed to give teachers a taste of what it's like to be a recruit.
Joined by educators from across Kentucky and West Virginia, Wilson and Shipley participated in a variety of events during their visit, including what it's like to have gravel-throated drill instructors bark out orders in the barracks and on the firing range.
Standing at attention in the barracks, Wilson and Shipley were on the receiving end of a particularly vocal outburst by the instructors who stormed up and down the center of the barracks, giving them and other educators a taste of what it's like to follow direct orders.
After getting a chance to fire M-16 rifles, they were ordered to line up in four columns and to "double-time" it back to their waiting buses while instructors made sure they did not lag behind or fall out of step.
The experience, they said, was well worth spending the week in what turned out to be a chilly, rainy week in South Carolina.
"I was very impressed with how things are run and how they are able to transform these young men from where they were," said Shipley, whose father was a recruit at Parris Island in 1962.
Wilson, who served as a lieutenant in the Navy, said the experience has him better prepared to offer insight for curious students.
"I'm 34 years removed from active duty, and things have changed a lot," he said. "The military is much better than it was 34 years ago [because] they are more family oriented.
"The training is intense, but there is much more concern for the recruits than there was then."
During recruit training, the Corps strips away from recruits the notion of "I" and replaces it with "team." During their 13 weeks at Parris Island, recruits must speak in the third person at all times, referring to themselves as "this recruit."
Shipley, who coaches Shelby County's high school football team, said he would like to be able to adopt some of the training techniques used by the Corps, but doubts some of those tactics would fly in a high school setting.
"I'd like to adopt some of the drills and activities for team building, but we couldn't get away with stripping away the individual like that," Shipley said.
"The Marines make you fit the Marines. We try to take the big picture and see how it can fit the individual. Here [at Parris Island] they take the individual and try to fit him into the big picture."