KSTP returns from San Diego after learning more on the process of recruits becoming Marines

The weeklong educators workshop KSTP took part in wrapped up Friday afternoon.  

After getting the chance to see and experience a portion of what the recruits train for, Friday was graduation day. The culmination of 13 weeks of intense training. 

Gunnery Sgt. Marple does a count of the educators on the final day of a weeklong workshop.

"It was awe-inspiring to see the sacrifices that they have made and the training they've done. It gives me a whole new perspective," River Falls counselor Cal Johnson said. 

Following an hour of pomp and circumstance, emotions flowed through the new Marines and their families as they were given their final instruction of dismissal from their drill instructor. 

An emotional embrace as family and friends get to see their Marine for the first time in three months following a graduation ceremony.

Edina teacher Lindsey Smaka reflected on her experience. 

"It's been really fun to get to know them as human beings and also a Marine and seeing both sides of them, because they are very intimidating at first, but they can turn it off. So that has been good for me, when I see someone out in the community to be able to talk to them," she said.

Please scroll down and see what KSTP did throughout the week. Everything from being mock recruits first arriving on the yellow footsteps at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, to a live fire range using M-16 rifles at Camp Pendleton. 

Thursday review and preview of Friday:

Thursday started with a pre-dawn arrival at Camp Pendleton. A select few educators were able to witness the final test a recruit undertakes, a grueling 54-hour compilation known as the "crucible."

"The crucible is a culminating event, which takes all of the training you've learned throughout recruit training. The reaper is that final obstacle, a big hill that everybody climbs, and it definitely brings emotions," explained Private Benjamin Quarandillo.

It's only after completing this test a recruit earns the title of United States Marine for the first time.

Pvt. Quarandillo, who only hours before earned the title of Marine, added, "It's the best thing I've ever felt, just because all the blood, sweat and tears that you've put into what you saw as a civilian to be this pinnacle organization, it's finally paid off."

The whole group of educators joined a warriors breakfast and spoke with new marines about their experience.

After finishing boot camp, Marines are trained in marksmanship at Edson Range at Camp Pendleton. Educators went through a safety course and were given the opportunity to shoot a military issue M16 rifle.

River Falls high school counselor Cal Johnson expressed his appreciation for the high standards of the Marines, saying, "I can't even imagine hitting from 500 yards. Just seeing how much I swayed from left to right in the optics, to do 500 yards would be unbelievably difficult." For comparison, educators tried to hit the 500-yards* target from less than half the distance.

The educators were then put through a team-building exercise.

Friday will be the conclusion of the educators' workshop The group will witness a live graduation ceremony. From there, the group will head to the airport and return home.

*Editor's Note: This has been updated to reflect the correct measurements, from meters to yards.

Wednesday review and preview of Thursday:

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar is where the educators' workshop spent most of Wednesday.

The group was welcomed by Miramar's commanding officer, Col. Charles Dockery, and four active-duty marines. The educators listened to each person's story and had a lively question and answer session. The idea was to allow the educators to hear from the active marines about their decision to join the military and how they've adjusted to marine life.

Col. Charles Dockery welcomed the educators group to MCAS Miramar on Wednesday. Dockery is the commanding officer that oversees all base operations.

Next, the group was given a tour of the base library and shown the educational opportunities offered to marines and their families.

Lindsey Smaka, a chemistry teacher at Edina High School, reflected on the presentations.

"I'm impressed how much they value education, which is not always known about the Marines. I think a myth about the military is it's just for people who don't want to go into college," said Smaka.

Lindsey Smaka, who teaches chemistry at Edina High School, spoke with KSTP about the educational offerings in the Marines.

Smaka also said there was one area she hoped to learn more about when asked if something was missing.

"Dealing with gender equity and females in the Marines… how they deal with only 9% of females and if they are trying to bring that number up," she said.

The last stop at Miramar was a tour of the aircraft and the chance to hear from some pilots.

Educators were given the chance to see an F-18 up close at MCAS Miramar Wednesday.

Capt. Daniel Tolbert, an F-18 pilot, talked about the opportunities out there.

"There's a huge array of jobs in the military. It's not like everyone in the military joins up, grabs a rifle and backpack and marches toward war," Tolbert said.

Capt. Daniel Tolbert spoke with educators about his duty being an F-18 pilot stationed at MCAS Miramar.

There are many career paths from cryptologists to creative people who are needed in the service, he added.

KSTP ended the day at MCRD San Diego with a spirited performance by the marine band and a trip to the museum. 

The Marine band's rock trio treated educators during a lunch.

Be sure to follow KSTP on Instagram.

Thursday, it'll be pre-dawn on the west coast roughly 30 miles north of San Diego at Camp Pendleton. The reason for the early wake-up call? A daunting event called the "crucible."

The 54-hour long event puts everything a recruit has learned to the test, such as physical conditioning, combat training, navigation and teamwork. It's only after completing this final test when recruits earn their Eagle Globe and Anchor and title of United States Marine.

The day at Camp Pendleton will end with the group receiving a weapons briefing before getting the chance to show their skills at the rifle range.

Tuesday review and preview of Wednesday:

Educators took their first steps as mock recruits quickly learned how structure plays a vital role in the Marine Corps.

Staff Sergeant Fernando Nunez Martinez, who is a drill sergeant, explained, "They get taught the basic knowledge of how to be a recruit here and start forgetting about that mindset of being a civilian and start living through that honor, courage and commitment mindset."

Order, discipline and command were on full display as educators fell into line on the yellow footsteps. That's where recruits learn the first basic formations and where the process of becoming a Marine begins.

The educators were then given some classroom time to learn about the recruiting and training of Marines, as well as the overall operational structure and mission of the Marine Corps.

Physical fitness is a core component to the Marines, and that was on display when the educators went through the combat fitness test.

The CFT is a series of brief but intense strength and endurance tests. It's required for all Marines to pass every year of enlistment.

Sauk Rapids recruit Roman Graham explained one of the biggest changes he's had to go through since arriving at boot camp, "They want you to do things fast and in a timely manner, but they also teach you to do it right the first time."

Graham was among several recruits whom educators were able to speak with during lunch to hear firsthand their experience. Graham is a little more than a week out from earning the title of Marine. He told KSTP of the physical transformation he's undergone since making the commitment to the Marines, losing roughly 80 pounds. When asked what he first plans to do when he leaves boot camp after next week, Graham said with a smile, "eat a burger."

Wednesday, KSTP will travel to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, which is about 10 miles north of San Diego. 

KSTP will get to have a Q&A with a panel of active-duty Marines to talk about life on the base.

 After that, the group will be given a tour of the educational facilities and libraries while discussing the various career opportunities that are available. 

The visit to Miramar will end with a tour of the various aircraft, along with an opportunity to speak with a pilot. From there, KSTP will return to the Marine Recruit Depot in San Diego and enjoy a performance by the Marine Band.

Monday review and preview of Tuesday:

After traveling to San Diego, there was time for the group members to get acquainted with one another as well as the Marines who traveled with us. In the evening there was a welcome banquet where the group from the Twin Cities was joined by groups from Iowa, Indiana, and Kansas City.

The larger group was introduced to the Marines who will be leading us through the week. We were given a good idea of what to expect for day two of the workshop.

Tuesday will be the first full day and it's expected to be busy. The first item of the day is at the Marine recruiting station and is called the Yellow Footprints. This is to show the group what new recruits first see when they get off the bus upon first arrival. They stand on yellow footprints and are taught the difference between civilian and military laws and what it means to be a Marine. From there we'll follow along as if we were new recruits. Then it's off to the contraband room to learn what is and is not allowed to have with you as a new recruit. A Marine Commander will then give an overview of the mission behind recruiting, training, and purpose of the Marine Corps. The group will then have lunch with new recruits. We've asked to talk with a recruit from Minnesota to be able to share their experience. Following lunch there's a combat fitness test, martial arts demonstration and bayonet assault course.

Be sure to follow along with us on Instagram 

Original story: 

KSTP is excited to join a group of teachers, counselors and administrators on a week-long immersive experience.

The Marine Corps (USMC) each year invites educators to join them at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego for a first-hand look at how new recruits become Marines.

Beginning Monday, Feb. 24, educators from the metro and greater Minnesota, Wisconsin and North and South Dakotas will spend time with recruits, drill sergeants and commanders. Throughout the week, the group will be taken through the process of when someone first arrives at MCRD San Diego, various training exercises and ultimately graduating as new Marines. 

KSTP was invited to travel along to share the experience with viewers. The Marines hold these workshops as a way to provide an inside look at how these recruits make that transformation from civilian to Marine. KSTP's goal is to share this experience through a series of Instagram stories, Instagram Live and a travel blog, updated daily.

On Monday, the group of about 20 educators will be gathering for the first time at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for a morning flight to San Diego. School districts represented in Minnesota include Edina, Osseo, Milaca, St. Cloud, Albert Lea and Duluth. Wisconsin districts include River Falls and Altoona. Educators from Fargo and Sioux Falls will be traveling separately. After everyone arrives in San Diego, there will be a dinner to introduce the educator group to members of the Marines and give everyone a better understanding for the week ahead. 

Check out KSTP's Instagram stories here.