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SC teachers being taught to help the Marines

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PARRIS ISLAND, SC (WMBF) - Would it bother you as a parent to know that high school teachers in South Carolina are being trained to talk to your kids about a career in the military?

A few years ago, the Marine Corps needed a new way to reach recruits. They needed to get into the schools to tell their story before they could legally meet with students face to face. The solution they found might surprise you.

It's an "educator's workshop" on the Parris Island Training Base near Beaufort that's designed to get teachers talking about service with your kids.

A different kind of recruit has just landed at Parris Island.

There's not much that can truly prepare a bunch of high school teachers, coaches and councilors for this kind of abuse.

But the payoff for the Marine Corp for this real-life introduction is expected to be huge.

Every branch of the military is losing the battle when it comes to recruiting the very best, which is why teachers are invited to Parris Island.

What better way to help bring in new recruits than to lift the perceived veil of secrecy off one of the world's most famous military training camps? The course aims to bring those who have the most influence on high schoolers to Parris Island and open their eyes.

"Once you get on there, your demeanor, your presence, you yelling at them disorients them, and that's when they know she means business - this is real," says Staff Sgt. Latoya Moffitt. She says vinegar is better than honey in trying to bring these folks in line. "Yes sir. Every time, for every person. I mean this is just human nature. It's just how we do it here sir. It works, and we stick with it."

From hand to hand combat, to live round firing practice, to conquering the fears of water and heights, this one-of-a-kind marketing campaign puts your kid's teachers through four days of eating, sleeping and acting like Marine recruits. Make no mistake, this effort here is not about a "Marine-themed" holiday for these instructors. They are being groomed into a recruiter's "secret weapon."

"Propensity to serve in the military is starting to decline," says Col. Bill Harrop. "They do have access to the kids before we're able to talk to the kids. We're not allowed to talk to the kids, say, freshmen, sophomores, juniors. We don't want these educators to sell the Marine Corps to these kids. We want them to know what makes them different."

This educator's workshop isn't cheap. During the workshop alone, the Marines cover the flights, and all transportation, hotels, and food for nearly 100 teachers, coaches and councilors. In all, they spend over $1 million a year in this effort. The question is, is this investment paying off?

That's an intangible, if you ask the Marines. Yet most of these role models seem ready to offer the Marine Corps up as an option for your kids.

Terri Rhoad is a high school career councilor from McBee High School in Chesterfield.

"The military is a wonderful option because they can go into the military and they can explore several avenues at one time while growing up a little bit and leveling out before they decide, 'okay, maybe I do want to be an engineer, maybe I do want to go to a 4-year school,'" she says.

In fact, given the options in this economy, most agree their students could benefit from the kind of training, discipline and opportunities they witnessed here at Parris Island.

While none admits they will actively recruit for the Marine Corps, they'll have a much better answer when a student asks, "Should I join the Marines?"

So far the Marine Corps has reached more than 6,000 high school teachers, councilors and coaches nationwide with this on-base marketing plan.

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