RUMFORD — Mountain Valley High School Assistant Principal Al Cayer learned what it was like to be a Marine at the Marine Educator Workshop at Parris Island, S.C. For four days, he walked in the steps of Marine recruits as they make the transition from civilian life to the Marine Corps.
According to the Marine website, “The Educator Workshop is an annual awareness program geared toward informing high school and community college educators and media representatives about the making of a U.S. Marine.”
Cayer’s personal reason to participate was to help students.
He said, “My main reason was to be able to help students who don’t have a direction after high school. When students say ‘I don’t want to go to the college or flip burgers,’ I now have an alternative plan or direction for them. I’m better informed about the possibilities in the armed forces, particularly the Marines.”
“They gave us the feel of what it was like to be a recruit,” Cayer said. “The day started in the dark at 6 a.m. and we went until lights out at 8 p.m. But instead of being in the barracks, we were in a hotel.”
He added, “We put our feet in the same yellow footprints that the recruits stand in while the drill sergeant barks, just like the experience the recruits have when they arrive.”
Several experiences during the workshop stand out.
Cayer said, “The physical aspect was very fulfilling. I had the opportunity to rappel off the 57-foot wall and was challenged by the obstacle course.”
It’s not surprising he enjoyed the physical aspects of the workshop. He is a world-record powerlifter in his respective weight and age bracket.
Cayer added, “I really enjoyed the Parris Island Museum. I saw tributes to more than 1 million recruits trained at Parris Island. While I was there I realized those recruits included MVHS graduates like Elizabeth Perry (Class of 2011), Christian Chessie (Class of 2009), Dottie McPherson (Class of 1995), Dustin Arsenault (Class of 2006), Savannah Palmer (Class of 2008), Austin Sanford (Class of 1998), and I’m sure there are many more.”
The educators have opportunities to interact with the recruits. He recalled one of his meals.
Cayer said, “We had the opportunity to eat with recruits. Normally, they aren’t allowed to talk during meals, eyes straight ahead and feet flat on the floor. After awhile they realized it was okay to talk to us. By the end of the meal, they talked a lot. I met a pimply 18-year-old from Ohio who loved to talk about hunting and football.”
The culminating experience was watching a class of Marines graduate basic training.
Cayer said, “To see the faces of parents after not seeing their child for 13 weeks at graduation was amazing. It was emotional even for me and I didn’t have anyone there.”
As an educator, he reflected on lessons learned from his experience.
Cayer explained, “The biggest thing I learned was what a first lieutenant told us. Marines’ purpose is to train young men and women into better adults for our society. He told us if the Corp. has the Marine for more than four years, great. If not, they are going back into society with discipline, goals and physically and mentally fit.”
Back at MVHS, he has put his experiences to work.
“I’ve already had the opportunity talk to several boys who are juniors and seniors,” Cayer said. “They don’t know what they want after high school so I’ve referred them to the Marine Facebook site and the recruiter for the area.”
Cayer concluded, “Personally, I have a renewed appreciation of what the Marines are doing to protect and serve. I’ve always appreciated what the armed forces have done for our country, but now I have even more respect for Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen.”
The Educator Workshop is an all-expense-paid trip sponsored by the Public Affairs Office of the Sixth Marine Corps District. Educators are transported to Parris Island by bus or airplane, depending on location.