Making Marines: El Paso and Las Cruces teachers go to boot camp

SAN DIEGO - Educators from El Paso and Las Cruces recently traveled to San Diego to get a firsthand look at what it takes to become a United States Marine.

Teachers, counselors, social workers and administrators spent five days learning about the Marines so they could relay information to students interested in joining the military.

Teachers and administrators from Socorro Independent School District, Las Cruces Public Schools and Gadsden Independent School District took part in this year’s educators’ workshop in San Diego, Calif.  

Col. Jim Gruny, Marine Corps Recruit Depot’s chief of staff, told KTSM, "We want the teachers to have an understanding of what the Marine Corps is all about and a true honest viewpoint of what it is to be a Marine."

At times, educators were treated like recruits to give them a better perspective of what their students may go through if they enlist.

Monte Womble, a teacher in Las Cruces, said, "I don't think I was ready for it. I think I knew they yell a little bit but it's different when it's really happening."  

For five days, educators learned about recruit training and the jobs available in the military. They also learned about the education benefits that come with enlisting.

After completing the Marine’s combat fitness test, Jennifer Zapata, a social worker with GISD, said, “It gives you a great appreciation for the military in general but the Marine Corps as well and the endurance they have to go through and how tough it really is."

Meanwhile, drill instructors spent the time giving educators at what recruits would experience during their 12 weeks of training.    

Gunnery Sgt. Juan Garcia, a recruiter stationed in Albuquerque told KTSM, "Some of the teachers came in and their minds changed a little bit about the Marine Corps and what the Marine Corps has to offer." 

Auburn Elliot, a teacher at El Dorado High School said, "It was very intense but it was a great opportunity to see what these Marines were doing."

When asked about the education benefits, Danny Baracz, a math teacher in Las Cruces said, “That’s how I got my college degree. They’re more generous today than they were in 1975.”

Garcia added, “So some of the benefits of joining the Marines is the tuition assistance when you’re on active duty. There’s a G.I. Bill when you leave the Marine Corps, as far as education benefits. There’s also some tangible benefits like healthcare and continuous pay.”

According to the Marines, there are more than 700 different jobs in 37 fields. 
Michele Hudson, a teacher with the Gadsden Independent School District said, "I understood that basic training would be tough – but actually seeing on the female side of it, they do have jobs, it's not all infantry. That was a really big part that I enjoyed witnessing."  

The Marine Corps paid for the teachers to attend the workshop in hopes of promoting the military as viable option for students graduating instead of a last resort. 

Womble added, "The experience of this is to have just a small taste of what the Marines go through and being able to feel that and to go out and talk about what it's been like. To know the demands and just the experience of being able to do it is irreplaceable."

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