SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KXAN) - "Please, don't judge us by the first day."
That was the warning we got from Maj. Jeremiah Salame when we were welcomed to the San Diego hotel where we would be staying for the week.
The following morning, his plea made a lot more sense.
Anyone expecting to simply get on the bus and take a ride to the Marine Corp Recruit Depot was in for a rude awakening.
"When I say ‘ears', you say ‘open!'" yelled a drill instructor given the task of engraining the expected language, decorum, and structure of the Marines into the group of unsuspecting teachers who stood in front of him, lined up in six rows, each four people deep.
A group of teachers from the Austin/San Antonio area recently attended a Marines Educator Workshop in San Diego. The workshop gave the teachers a week-long and hands-on experience at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot where recruits are received and put through boot camp. Educators Workshops are designed to give teachers a better understanding of how the Marines operate so that they can better assist students that are considering a life in the military. KXAN reporter Chris Sadeghi and photographer Chris Nelson spent the week in San Diego with the teachers and this is part-one of a three-part series on the educator workshop.
Once we realized our vocabulary was now limited to "yes sir" and "no sir' when asked a question and "aye aye, sir" when told to do something, we were allowed to board the bus the same way more than 15,000 marine recruits did in 2012.
And just like the recruits, the first step we took was onto the yellow footprints.
Line by line, row by row, the outlines of footprints in yellow paint is the first place a new recruit stands when he arrives at MCRD to begin a 13-week journey to become a Marine.
The recruits, like the teachers, are told how to talk, how to stand and how to walk by the drill instructors who did not stop yelling for the next 15 minutes.
But the teachers at least got to keep their personal items. And they did not have part ways with the hair on their head.
During a normal receiving of recruits, each young man who steps on the yellow footprints will have their personality, individuality, and any uniqueness about them stripped away.
They now all look the same, act the same, and talk the same.
The way they put on their shoes, the way they make their beds.
It is all identical.
"Each one of you can become a marine if you develop discipline and spirit," yelled Staff Sgt. Clyde Harris, as he demonstrated how new recruits are introduced to their new father figure at MCRD.
"But above all else, never quit or give up!"
For the teachers, all the yelling was a surreal experience.
"The yellow footprints were very shocking to me," said Tammy Johnson, the career specialist at Bastrop High School.
"It was really touching to me and really emotional."
The culture shock is something to which all recruits must adapt.
Johnny from Beaumont, a recruit just days away from graduation, called it ‘horrifying" not being able to access his Facebook or have use of the Internet.
His mother wrote him letters to keep him updated about the Benghazi hearings.
"It is definitely a culture shock," Staff Sgt. Harris said. "And once they get here, they are confused. They don't know what is going on."
The Marines let Anthony Maldonado of Del Valle take a short 15 minute break to do an interview with his hometown television station.
Not just a break from whatever he may have been doing, but a break from the expected vocabulary.
After referring to himself as "this recruit" several times during the interview, a public affairs officer informed him that he was allowed to use the word "I" during the interview.
And only during the interview.
"I came here to change my life," Maldonado said. "To be honest with you, I was on a road to nowhere. That is not me anymore."
Maldonado admits he did not like MCRD when he arrived.
He was 18 and away from his mother and two sisters for the first time in his life.
Over the next 13 weeks, he spoke to his family only two times by phone. And despite all the hard times, the voice of his mother was the only thing that made him break down.
"I called my mom and that was the hardest moment for me," said Maldonado. "I wanted to give up and go home. As soon as I said hello, my mom said ‘hey hijo' and I started crying."
But although the words of his mother almost broke him, they also kept him going.
"When a recruit gets a letter, it is like gold. They treasure it so much."
Two weeks after we interviewed Maldonado, he graduated a United States Marine.
Thirteen weeks of training and trial earned him a title he will carry with him the rest of his life.
A life that is significantly changed.
"The Marine Corp is the best thing that ever happened to me. It is a way of life and I cannot go wrong with it."
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