SAN DIEGO (Covering Katy News)— Two Katy Independent School District educators recently traveled to California to participate in a U.S. Marine Corps educators workshop that allowed them to experience the world of a raw recruit and learn how to succeed at teaching young men and women who are struggling in school.
Adrian Berg, a restorative practices coordinator at Morton Ranch High School, and LaErica Barcelona, a volleyball coach and social studies teacher at Katy High School, spent a week at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. They also visited the Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar.
Berg described the workshop as a mini-boot camp for instructors. The educators experienced many of the same things that Marine recruits experience, including standing on painted yellow footprints at the recruit depot and receiving initial loud instructions from Marine Corps drill instructors.
Combat fitness training, though optional for the educators, was another part of the workshop.
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“They put us through the exact same training the Marines receive,” Berg said. Among the activities was an obstacle course where recruits sprint, low crawl, high crawl and do fireman’s carries while sprinting. Berg said that each piece of the puzzle relates to something found in combat.
Berg completed an 800-meter run in 3:23, while Barcelona completed it in 3:30.
Another fitness drill was to count how many times they could lift a 35-pound ammunition can over their heads. Berg raised the can 69 times, while Barcelona raised it 52 times.
“I never want to lift an ammo can again,” Berg said.
Another experience involved shooting M16 rifles at the same shooting range where the Marines learn to shoot.
“I was honored to shoot on the same range,” Berg said. “I felt like I was shooting a three-point shot at Toyota Center or throwing a pass at NRG Stadium.”
Educators also visited with Marines about their experiences and perspectives. Berg said they met Marine Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller, who is preparing to retire and is on his farewell tour.
“You can make anybody quit, but the real art is in who you can make succeed to high standards,” Berg said he was told by Gen. Neller.
Times have changed for the Marines according to Berg. He believes the Marines aren’t trying to make people quit if they can’t initially handle the pressure. If a recruit needs more help in getting in shape, the Marines have people to help that recruit.
“They want these kids to become Marines,” Berg said. “They will do what they need to do.”
The recruit retention effort has worked according to Berg. Only two of the 300 recent recruits quit while going through the final phase of training, called the Crucible, according to Berg.
Efforts to support recruits in training has relevance as teachers and other educators want to support students.
Berg wants to emulate that same philosophy in the classroom.
“If someone’s struggling here, we can help them accomplish the same goals as everyone else,” Berg said. “I feel we have a lot of those things here at Morton Ranch, but across education, that just needs to be the driving philosophy.”
Educators also visited with other Marines, where they discussed topics from training to support given to families when a Marine is deployed. Barcelona talked with one drill instructor, and they discussed the similarities of their jobs.
Some recruits don’t have a high school education prior to joining the Marines and need to be taught the purpose of each activity.
Berg and Barcelona were part of a 22-member delegation from the Greater Houston area. Teachers who want to take part in the Marines workshop must be nominated by a local recruiter and complete an application.
Berg admitted that if he were 20 years younger and knew about the educational opportunities offered by the Marines, it would have put him on the right path in life more quickly. He believes it would have been difficult to get him out of the service had he joined as a young man.
“It was an incredible experience,” Berg said. “My biggest takeaway was seeing how they were preparing better citizens. Everyone is somewhat familiar with how basic training works, but the transformation was tenfold. They were really doing an amazing job turning these men and women into better citizens.”
Barcelona said her father, who served in the Marines before she was born, laughed when she shared some of her experiences with him. He told her that the Marines are a lot nicer than they used to be.
“Dad was a Marine and I heard so many stories about it, that to go there was a great experience,” Barcelona said.
Like Berg, she wondered why she didn’t enlist when she was younger.
“It’s something attainable,” Barcelona said. “You’re part of a big team. Someone has your back all the time.”
See photos below.