SPECIAL REPORT: How recruits are transformed from civilians into Marines

SPECIAL REPORT: How recruits are transformed from civilians into Marines
Albany recruit, Jasqon Bryant (Source: WALB)
Albany recruit, Jasqon Bryant (Source: WALB)
U.S. Marine Corps Retired Colonel, Dan Gillan (Source: WALB)
U.S. Marine Corps Retired Colonel, Dan Gillan (Source: WALB)
U.S. Marine Corps Private First Class, Jared Gillan (Source: WALB)
U.S. Marine Corps Private First Class, Jared Gillan (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Every year, thousands of Marine recruits head off to bootcamp to serve our country.

WALB News 10's Re-Essa Buckels took a four-day trip to get a behind the scenes look at the intense training recruits experience at the Marine Recruiting Depot on Parris Island, South Carolina.

On graduation day, families see the stark change in their new Marine. But they often don't know the blood, sweat and tears that goes into making a Marine.

"Oorah, good job guys, good job!" proud parents belted out the U.S. Marine Corps battle cry.

Thousands of families, like Dan Gillan and his wife Andrea, lined up along the curb to cheer on their Marines who are one day away from graduation.

But only a few parents know what it takes for their sons and daughters to be part of this motivational run, and that's because they've done it.

The U.S. Marine Corps gave us a behind the scenes look at bootcamp.

It's called the Educator's Workshop, an annual awareness program that informs educators and the media on how Marines are made.

A causeway was the only way on and off Parris Island. The island was designated as a Marine Corps Recruiting Depot.

The swampy terrain made it an ideal place for training, and where Marines were made since 1915.

60 educators witnessed and participated in bootcamp, which is typically 13 weeks.

We did it in four days!

The recruit training cycle was broken down into three phases aimed to challenge recruits physically, mentally and emotionally.

We lined up on the legendary footsteps, the first stop for all recruits, and our first taste of phase one bootcamp.

"The first phase is probably the most difficult because they're in shock," said U.S. Marine Corps Drill Instructor (DI), Staff Sergeant Simone King.

King's sole job was to break down the bad habits of recruits.

She joined the Marines in 2007, and she knew from day one that she wanted to be a DI.

"The way they carried themselves, they way they walked they way they talked, I just loved everything about it and I knew I wanted to have the same impact on junior Marines, as they had on me," explained King.

Like recruits, we were challenged to shed our individuality, and think like a team.

Educators got a chance to chow with recruits in the Mess Hall.

"How to work together and having everyone in the platoon realize that we're working as one," remarked Albany recruit, Jasqon Bryant.

Even in phase three, Bryant said he still struggles with the concept.

Day 2 events were all about character development, the core of phase two.

"The first phase they struggle through, they don't have the confidence to get through it, they have a little bit of a mental block because they've never done things like that before," said King.

The name said it all – the confidence course helps recruits conquer their fears, and to do the unthinkable.

But our next stop, the gas chamber, we really felt the burn.

When I walked through it, my eyes and face started burning, and could barely breathe.

Finally the next feat, repelling down the 43-foot tower.

Day three was our final day.

When I asked educators how they were feeling about the last day, one remarked, "it was fun but I'm hurting."

We were en route to watch more than 500 Marines graduate, the last event of phase three.

The emotional ceremony was a proud moment for families like the Gillans who've waited 13 weeks to salute their Marines.

Before the platoons could finish shouting the battle cry, a stampede of families sprinted to their beloved Marines.

This was a special moment for retired Colonel Dan Gillan and his wife, Andrea, their son Jared finally finished bootcamp.

"I was proud of him, that he acknowledged the effort that a dad puts into his son…and to see him take that first step with these other Marines and these six platoons of the best our country has to offer," said Dan.

"Words can't describe how I'm feeling...it gets me a lot of pride and honor to be able to carry on our family name and to the Marine Corps and carry on that legacy," remarked Jared.

Next week, we'll look at Parris Island's connection to Albany's Marine Corps Logistics Base.

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