Educator’s Workshop at Paris Island March 1-4, 2016 for the Recruiting Station of Columbia, South Carolina…holy cow…what an amazing experience. The sign that speaks the mission of the base really says it all. “We Make Marines”
My participation in this workshop tops the list of professional development experiences and learning about what I can do to help young people to find their paths, wherever they may lead.
Our group of 30 educators stayed in Beaufort and traveled to the base daily. We met Marines and recruits and learned what it takes to be a US Marine. We also were able to experience shooting the M 16, repelling down a 50 foot wall, running the obstacle course, and of course, visiting the pit.
The PIT – a sandy spot that looks like it is ready for a beach volleyball game, but I assure you this is not a fun spot. PIT, I believe stands for “personal incentive training”. Now, I don’t know if that is an official breakdown or one of affection. I know we all thought that some “personal incentive training” could be very effective in our classrooms.
The repel wall… one marine at the top and one at the bottom. These 2 men are there to make sure you go down safely. You could pass out and drop and still be lowered without harm. This did not assuage my fear AT ALL! So, here is the whole story. When we first arrived, they put us in formation and said “those that have no intention of repelling please go to the back fence”. I did not move. I was in. The instructor explained what was going to happen and told us to go get our gear. I walked with the group, but in the room with the gear – I bailed. I came out empty handed…I just could not do it. My fear of heights was going to win today.
The Marines that we were working with over the course of the 4 days expressed their dismay as I passed by to join the non-participants. I stood to the side for the 20 minute preparations of the group – anger growing and frustration brewing. Not only was I battling my fear of heights, but I had just hurt my knee on the obstacle course (read about that here). Still, I could not take it any longer and I walked up to my Drill Instructor and said “I don’t want to wuss out – is it too late?” No it was not. They went and got gear and got me ready in 60 seconds flat. As I climbed the stairs the shaking began. I tried not to think about it as I watched educator after educator disappear over the side. It was finally my turn.
Marine number 1 hooked me up, told me to step back, and then, just lean back. I tried and tried. We were to put our heals over the edge – half on, half off sort of thing. And then, keep legs straight and do a trust fall – 50 feet in the air – with the guy that is going to “catch” you 50 feet below. I kept staring into the eyes of Marine number one and listening to the voices of those below – trying to distinguish that of Marine number two. I had my first heal over the edge. As I tried to inch my other foot back, I rocked back and forth, left to right, not really making any progress. As the anxiety level rose, I had to step from the edge completely again. UGH! I repeated this twice. Seriously? I was so frustrated that I could not overcome this. I wanted it so badly! My Marine was so patient and so good and calming a woman on the edge.
Again, I get my right heel over the edge. “Now, just move your left foot,” he said. Sure. “I’m trying!” I screamed. Mental note – do not piss off the Marine holding the rope. Deep breath. Finally, I edged the foot back and he said , “you are there – now just lean back.” and in one fell swoop I dropped over the edge. The exhilaration at all time high in this 46-year-old life – I made it half way down the wall before they stopped me. My fingers were dangerously close to the rig and we needed to reposition before they lowered me the rest of the way. Whew. When I hit the ground it was hard to even think straight because the adrenaline was so high. I do remember, however, giving a great big hug to Marine number two.
I can see why they make recruits to this. A trust and confidence builder for sure. I am so grateful for the experience and to two very special Marines that I will never forget.