PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – For an extended Punching the Clock, I headed out of the county, then out of state to the U.S. Marine Corps boot camp on Parris Island, South Carolina, for an educators’ workshop. Now, I went into this with a limited and probably average understanding of the Marine Corps. I mean I saw “G.I. Jane” so I figured I had a pretty rich understanding of what they are all about. In hindsight, I was dead wrong. For starters, Demi Moore depicts a Navy Seal – which is in no way part of the Marine Corps – and she also does not go through basic training. So, needless to say, it was a humbling and eye-opening experience.
Some of the more benign surprises that were in store for me included a predominance of water phobia in new recruits, which I thought was interesting considering the Marines are an amphibious strike force. One of the recruiters chaperoning us, a Sgt. Franklin, confided in me that he once greatly feared water and had been unable to swim well when he enlisted. The most interesting part for me, however, was actually speaking with the recruits who had only been on the isle for a few of weeks.
The educators first day mimicked a toned down version of what the recruits experience upon arriving at boot camp. It began with the long drive across the causeway connecting Parris Island to the mainland. Shrouded in darkness, the bus passed over the paved road constructed nearly flush with the water surrounding it on either side. Unlike the recruits, the educators and I chatted merrily while peering through the windows with sleep-blurred eyes. When the recruits’ journey to the island, they do so in silence, with their heads tucked down close to their knees while raising an arm holding up their identifications in the air.