“Our drill instructor (for the Louisville group) was female; Cleveland’s was male. She could outdo him any day of the week,” said Cornett. “The commanding general of Parris Island was Lori Reynolds, the first ever (in that rank) in the history of the Marine Corps. She was a very impressive lady, very commanding. We gave her a lot of respect.”
Of course, Cornett went through the type of brutal obstacle courses one would expect. At age 45, Cornett keeps himself fit and didn’t find the physical challenges too much, although others in his group of educators did.
Also part of the experience was a swimming course — the second-largest in the world; a firing range (right up Cornett’s alley, as he said he “love(s) shooting guns”) with military-grade weaponry like M-16 rifles; combat with fighting sticks; life demonstrations of water survival techniques; ropes courses; touring a hanger with an F-18 fighter jet, and more.
“We were constantly moving, moving, moving,” said Cornett. “No downtime. No time to be board.”
Maybe the most rewarding part was talking to the actual recruits who were there at the island, going through boot camp for real. Cornett got to watch a battalion’s graduation, as well as the progress of recruits who were there, going through the 13-week process of three different phases, from the down-and-dirty basics to being a full-fledged Marine.
“They come from all backgrounds across the country,” said Cornett of the recruits. “Just being able to eat with know, get to know them was one of the highlights. ... Normally, they have to eat in silence and not talk to anyone from the outside, so it’s neat for them, and for us, to hear about how their life has changed in the last four or five weeks.”