Another rewarding day at Parris Island

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 14, 2014

Editor’s note: David Freeze of Rowan County and several educators are at Parris Island for a hands-on introduction to Marine boot camp. He filed this report Thursday night.
As cold weather arrived at Parris Island, wind and darkness combined for a chilling effect as our group of educators watched recruits do their early morning physical training.
The recruits went through a spirited version of warmups, then moved toward the obstacle course for an intense workout.
The educator platoon then formed up again to view the Moto Run, a motivational running tour around the base for graduating recruits.
Brig. Gen. Lori Reynolds, base commander, led the early morning run.
Back in our formation, we began to “step it out” toward the pool training facility. Not recently have I appreciated the warmth of a pool area so much. The education platoon gladly settled in for instruction on the required swim testing that new recruits must pass. Just a few things in training stood out for me. We watched an experienced Marine swimmer inflate his shirt and trousers to use for a flotation device, as well as using his his large backpack and a fuel can to keep him above water.
All Marine recruits are required to pass minimum swim requirements that include a 25-meter swim, an ability to stay afloat for four minutes, a tower dive and swim, and the knowledge of how to dump your gear after entering the water.
Sgt. McDonald told us that recruits who can’t meet the minimum requirements (called Iron Ducks) get extensive training during a week to improve their swimming ability.
Continuing a very active morning, our platoon headed for a tour of the base museum. Exhibits covering the lifespan of the Parris Island facility, the development of recruit training, and uniforms and weapons made for very enjoyable indoor visit.
The next stop was the Family Day Ceremony, which honors the graduating recruits and the families who have not seen them for 70 days. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service honored 11 new Marines who had met the requirements for U.S. citizenship during their recruit training. Those new citizens came from Peru, the Dominican Republic, Guana, Haiti, Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador and Brazil. A glorious reunion came as the recruit platoons were dismissed for their first liberty since arrival.
Just as the rest of the group had headed in for the Family Day ceremony, I had the opportunity to speak at length with new recruit Peter Hinckley of Cary.
Hinckley told me, “I wanted something motivating, challenging and different. This branch provided the most of all of that. But it has still been harder than what I thought.”
Hinckley is 19 and has been a recruit for a month. When asked about his best memory so far, Hinckley quickly replied, “I completed the obstacle course this morning for the first time. All of this is going to be worth it in the end when I become a Marine.”
Hinckley also told me that seeing the parents of the graduating recruits on campus makes him look forward to his own graduation even more.
A short bus ride carried the educator platoon to a martial arts demonstration that included Pugil stick fighting for many of the group. Though the Marine trainers were the opponents in the fights, a few of educators thought they held their own briefly.
My next stop was a meeting with two young female recruits from Greensboro. Jasmine Huey, 22, and Lyric Covington, 17, were allowed to take time to give me a perspective on a young woman’s time as a Marine recruit. Both Huey and Covington entered on the delayed entry plan.
“Their primary recruiters are expected to set up training plans during that time and make sure the recruit is prepared in as many areas as possible when they arrive at Parris Island,” said Sgt. Green, a recruiter from Greensboro. Huey and Covington gave the Greensboro recruiting office major credit for preparing them, allowing extra confidence upon arrival. Green detailed extensive time taken with each recruit after they had signed up, but before the arrival of that recruit at boot camp.
Though both Covington and Huey were from the same city, they did not know each other before arrival at Parris Island. Huey’s grandfather, a Marine Vietnam War veteran, wanted her to be a Marine, and Covington started ROTC in the ninth grade. Both agree that the Marines are right for them and that the weather at boot camp is a big challenge with some days warm and others cold.
Huey and Covington both believed that the Air Force or Navy would be too easy, Their friends thought they were crazy to enlist, but they fully support them now. Covington was surprised to see so many women in their platoon, with the current number at 50. The new recruits both agree the rewards will be great and look forward to the remaining challenges.
As a side note, Covington was an “Iron Duck” after her first swim trial. She passed all her requirements on the second test.
Believe it or not, this was only half our day. I will continue with the afternoon portion of Thursday in my next column.

There is still so much to tell.