FCN anchor, Anthony Austin, joined Jacksonville educators to Parris Island, S.C. to try out Marine Corp. boot camp.
Here on the First Coast, we are proud of our military men and women. I have much respect for all of you. I have family members who have served.
As a reporter, I've traveled to Iraq and seen firsthand what our brave men and women do to protect our country.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to go to Parris Island in South Carolina to see what it takes to become a United States Marine. I traveled with a group of teachers from Jacksonville. They went to Parris Island to see what it's like so they could educate their students back at home who may be considering a career in the military.
Before the sun was up, we were on a bus headed to Parris Island. It was quiet on that bus because most of us didn't know what to expect once we arrived. That silence was quickly broken.
Drill instructors were waiting for us and they meant business. We quickly got off the bus and lined up on those famous yellow footprints where every Marine recruit stands here on their first day. This is where the journey begins and lives are changed.
From there, we were given a briefing where we learned what the first few days are like for a Marine recruit. The first six to 10 days: processing and forming of platoons. The recruits get their gear and they're allowed to make one phone call to family, but they're very limited in what they can say.
After that, actual training begins. The training cycle is broken down into three phases and lasts a total of 12 weeks.
The Marine Corps is built on teamwork, leadership and a strong moral foundation. Our drill instructors demanded respect and discipline, something I learned firsthand after not following orders. From this moment on, I can tell you I rarely made any mistakes.
After getting us in line, the drill instructors took us to the squad bay. This is where the recruits live during their training.
Recruits are not allowed visitors and they receive one hour a day of free time. On Sunday, they get four hours of free time. This free time is spent reading, writing letters, preparing uniforms and preparing for the next day's training.
Outside, in the sand pits, things started to get physical. From jumping jacks to push ups, I found out how Marine recruits stay in shape.
Finally, it was time for lunch. A Marine's diet is just as important as physical training. I was told a group of 80 Marines can get through the line and be seated in less than 10 minutes. The same discipline they have in the field, they have in the chow hall.
After lunch, it was marksmanship training. We learned how to shoot an M16 rifle. Before we could hold the actual gun, we had to practice.
After shooting a few practice rounds, it was time for the real thing. Every Marine must pass marksmanship training before they graduate.
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Our morning started with us observing recruits going through training.
By the time the sun was up, we found ourselves on the confidence course. The reason for the name, well, it takes a lot of confidence to get through it. I tried my best and I have to say, it was challenging.
The teachers from Jacksonville also made their best effort.
"It was very hard. It was very rigorous," Linda Edwards said.
"Someone else asked me how did you do well on that, I just watched the guy who went before me. I learned from the guys that did it right. I learned from the guys that did it wrong," Joe Meserve said.
This is where a lot of us got nervous. It was time to rappel off this nearly 50-foot tower. Recruits don't attempt this until their fifth week.
My first time jumping down, I actually got my hand caught in a latch and had to be lowered down. I thought I was going to call it quits, but one of the Marines encouraged me to give it a second try.
Once again, the beginning was a little rough, but I actually made it down on my own.
My boot camp experience lasted just a few days, but these Marine recruits, they do this for 12 straight weeks.
That's about three months of giving their all to learn the skills needed to protect our country.
I have a new respect for these men and women because I can tell you, at the end of the day this isn't an easy job.