SAN DIEGO, California — As the sounds of gunfire piped over speakers April 19, a West Fork High School teacher rested in a prone position in the sands of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
Dressed in cammies, a helmet, flak jacket and carrying a simulated rifle, Laura Shafer was preparing to crawl, leap and run her way across an obstacle course.
She was one of about 20 Iowa and Nebraska teachers chosen to attend a week-long workshop in San Diego April 18-22 to learn more about the Marine Corps and better inform students interested in joining the military.
The workshop included candid talks with recruiters, recruits and other active duty Marines; visiting the Recruit Depot, Camp Pendleton and Air Station Miramar; attempting physical challenges and marksmanship training; participating in a mock receiving and pick-up; and observing boot camp graduation.
Shafer, who lives in Greene, teaches English and a world history class in Sheffield. She submitted an application after reading the Globe Gazette’s article about Mason City athletic director Bob Kenny’s experience at last year’s workshop — and receiving a challenge from her husband.
“I knew very little about the Marine Corps,” she said. “I would see some retired ones at Boy Scout ceremonies but they intimidated the hell out of me, the Marines.”
At the workshop, Shafer said she pictured plenty of physical activities, staying in barracks and eating chow hall food. The week exceeded her expectations, she said.
“They’re a first-class act and remarkable men,” she said of the Marines she met. “The recruiters care about working with and supporting their kids.”
Shafer said the myth of recruiters trying to fill quotas or snatch kids from their families is gone for her.
“I got it today,” she said April 21. “I know this isn’t just a marketing campaign.”
She said her most memorable experience was being able to talk with recruits during meal times.
“Their first week here, they’re petrified,” she said. “My heart breaks for them — I’m thinking that’s mean (drill instructors), why are they doing that to that poor child.
“Then they complete the process and have a lot of pride and camaraderie. They’ve dug deep for something within themselves and have transformed into young men.”
During a mock receiving, Shafer had a taste of what recruits go through their first moments at the depot. After giving teachers a short, intense speech, a drill instructor hustled them off a bus onto the yellow footprints every new recruit stands on.
“I thought, ‘This is war; this s—t is real,’” she said. “I was scared; I can’t imagine what kids would be thinking.”
Shafer now appreciates having a face and a name for a local Marine recruiter — Sgt. Jeremy Spaunhorst — and the knowledge she’s gained over the week.
“I look at this as like an opportunity and tell kids they might be making a decision that will close a door to a future they don’t know exists,” she said.