BY GABE LICHT
SAN DIEGO, CA For most people, a week away from work is a vacation.
That was not the case for three Delano High School faculty members, who experienced boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego for five days in February.
“It was not a holiday,” guidance counselor Susan Farbo said.
“We wanted to go to bed by 7 p.m. every day,” added Shallyn Tordeur, a School Within A School and COMPASS instructor. “We thought we were in San Diego, and we were going to enjoy ourselves. We couldn’t by the time we returned every night. We were expected to be ready to go every day at 6 a.m., and return back, give or take, at 6 p.m.”
Health and physical education teacher Maria Menz said she believes the teachers did not receive special treatment.
“The drill instructors treated us as they would a recruit,” Menz said. “ . . . We were told, when we arrived at the Depot Tuesday morning, that we were going to hit the infamous yellow footprints that all recruits do as soon as they arrive there. They told us to put our heads down. He (the drill sergeant) came in, and we were startled. ‘This is what you’ll do. This is how you’ll approach me.’”
When he said “ears,” they were instructed to yell “open;” when he said “eyeballs,” they said “click;” and a command of “zero” solicited a response of “freeze.”
Menz learned firsthand the importance of following directions and not moving unless ordered to do so.
“I was standing in line. I think I adjusted my backpack or something, and I got yelled at,” Menz said.
Delano’s representatives were joined by dozens of school professionals from Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Iowa for the educator workshop, with the Marines covering all expenses in hopes of preparing teachers to answer students’ questions about the military.
One thing they can tell their students is the requirement to be considered for the Marines.
“In order to be physically able to go to boot camp, you have to do three pull-ups, 44 crunches, and a 13:30 mile-and-a-half,” Menz said. “By telling kids this, and they know what their abilities are, they think, ‘I can do that.’”
Tordeur, Farbo, and Menz did not have to meet those requirements, but they did have to attempt the combat fitness test.
“We all succeeded,” Tordeur said. “We didn’t meet the physical requirements, but we all accomplished it. We all finished it. We had to go through all of it. Even though we don’t have the stamina of an 18-year-old, we did complete it in its entirety.”
It was an encouraging experience.
“I remember I had to carry Susan on my back like a fireman’s carry, and thinking, ‘There’s no way I can do this, and someone was there saying, ‘You can do this, you will do this, you will not drop her,’” Tordeur said. “You push yourself above and beyond what you expected. It’s a lot of mind over matter, and they teach you that. You have the power to control how you think, how you act, and how you respond to situations.”
They learned to emphasize “we” over “me.”
“I think what I noticed, even with us, we weren’t individuals,” Farbo said. “We were looking out for each other and helping so our friends wouldn’t get in trouble with our drill sergeant.”
“Even in the short time we were there, we became a close-knit family with the individuals who were with us,” Tordeur added. “You watched out for each other and made sure you were accountable for everybody . . . Everybody is treated as equal. They really pushed that.”
Though the training was physically grueling, that wasn’t what stood out most to the local contingent.
“Mentally, it was the entire week just following the Marine way,” Tordeur said of the most difficult part of the experience.
In addition to the combat fitness test, the educators ran a bayonet assault course, visited Air Station Miramar, listened to a Marine band, saw the educational center, shot rifles, spoke with Marines, observed Marines participate in the Crucible training, and attended a boot camp graduation.
While they trained with and observed men in the Marines, they were curious what it’s like for the women who become Marines.
“We kept asking, ‘How are the women treated?’ They said there are the same expectations,” Menz said. “If anything, the female drill instructors are even more tough.”
The local women reflected on their key takeaways from the experience.
“What stood out the most was just learning to have pride in everything you do, and do it 100 percent,” Tordeur said.
“For me, it was that feeling of family,” Farbo said. “You all have a common goal and common bond. When you experience something like that together, it bonds you for life. I think all the Marines feel that way once they’ve been through what they’ve been through. They can relate to each other a lot more.”
Now, they can share what they learned with their students.
“I think, for all of us, it will help provide them with education about the military,” Menz said. “We can be more informative about what the Marines can offer.”
She also invited Marines to her physical education classes to give students a taste of the physical rigors of military training.
“We had the Marines come in . . . and set up their combat physical training course for students so they could experience what we experienced,” Tordeur said. “From what I heard, it was difficult for kids. We had kids who didn’t realize how strenuous it was, and how difficult it was.”
“I told the kids, ‘This isn’t to push the Marines on you. It’s to provide you with an experience and show you when you’re able to achieve something like that, it gives you such a feeling of accomplishment,’” Menz added.
For those students thinking about serving in the military, Farbo reminds them that education is important.
“Oftentimes, students think, ‘If I’m going into the military, high school doesn’t matter, but what high school does is build an educational foundation for what they’re going to need post-high school,” Farbo said.
She noted that four to six students out of each graduating class of about 200 students pursue military careers after graduation.
Recruiters from each branch of the military are welcome at DHS, and Marine recruiters typically visit the school on a monthly basis.
“What’s great about our school is we’re open to military recruiters,” Farbo said. “We offer the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) every year.”