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Full Metal Jacket

Wednesday, Feb. 27 | By Mark Grandstaff | Google+
The recruit, Mark Grandstaff. Photo by Randy Litzinger
My managing editor was only too happy to send me off to the Marines.

For the rest of the week, I will be a guest of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island.

Along with a group of about 40 teachers throughout the region, I'll participate in their "Educators Workshop," where they show civilians how young men and women are made into our country's fighting elite.

I have no idea what I'm getting into.

Sgt. Amber Williams assures me that is the point. The Marines created the workshop for people with little or no military background.

The closest tie I have to America's armed forces was my late great-uncle James Grandstaff, who served in the Corps during World War II.

My apple did not fall far from that tree so much as it rocketed sideways to land in a separate orchard.

You may remember an old war-era Looney Tunes cartoon where Bugs Bunny looks out the open hatch of a flying plane. His heart, stamped with a big "4-F," starts beating out of his chest.

That's me. I'm not Marine material. I've never fired anything more potent than a pellet gun. A few flights of stairs leave me gasping for enough air to extinguish nearby brush fires.

I could probably out-fight a Welsh corgi, but only if I got the drop on it.

The extent of my knowledge of the Marine Corps comes from R. Lee Ermey and and those recruitment commercials that aired about 20 years ago, where Marines were fighting on giant chess boards and slaying dragons.

There won't be dragons, but I'm told there will be "hands-on" activities for me and the other guests of the Corps. I'm told I'll be spending quality time with an M16 rifle. There will be close combat drills.

I imagine there will be some shouting involved.

The workshop's goal, said Capt. Julian Kilcullen, is not to win over teachers critical of the military, but to show them what the Corps asks of the young people recruited at their schools.

"It's meant to demonstrate explicitly to you what kind of individual we're looking for," Kilcullen said.

My goal is to write about what I see and do on Parris Island. I don't believe it will come close to the experience of serving in the Corps during a war. I won't leave behind family to put myself into harm's way.

I won't struggle to find civilian employment after years of service.

Many of our readers have a military background, either through family members or direct service. I hope that, by going to this workshop, I will gain some appreciation of the training and traditions that have shaped their lives.

At the very least, I hope it will entertain you. Come back next week and I'll tell you how it went.

Editor's note: Grandstaff will provide updates throughout the week of his Marine Corps experience on Fauquier.com.
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