The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

August 13, 2012

Sweeney goes to boot camp

Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — Most days, Dr. Graham Sweeney is involved in academic matters, as superintendent of the Boles Independent School District.

Granted, the pursuit of education excellence can be a tiring exercise in itself. But Sweeney recently found himself engaging in a more athletic endeavor, as he got just a taste of what it would be like to go through a Marine Corps boot camp.

“It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be,” Sweeney said of the experience. “It was hard.”

Sweeney was chosen to attend the 2012 Educators’ Workshop with the United States Marine Corps Recruiting Station Dallas. The event was conducted July 9-13 at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego.

“This is a highly sought after opportunity and available spots are very limited,” said the congratulatory letter sent by Major Karl Tinson, the USMC commanding officer with Recruiting Station Dallas.

Whereas a typical Marine Corps basic training lasts 12 grueling weeks, Sweeney and the others invited to San Diego spent a far less strenuous four days in the camp, and returned to the “harsh” confines of their hotels at night.

The visit included tours of the facility, briefings with the officers on duty, lunches with the actual recruits on the base and observations of recruit training.

During the week, Sweeney and the others received instructions in the history of the Marine Corps, the meaning behind the various symbols used by the corps and also learned how to use some of the “Leatherneck Lingo.” For instance, Sweeney now knows how to climb a ladderwell, proceed through a hatch, to secure his belongings in his footlocker, to tidy up any Irish Pennants, to discern the difference between a grunt and the CMC and how to respond when one of his superiors in the chain of command tells him “carry on” or remain “as you were.”

Perhaps the most harrowing part of the experience came on the third day when the group stopped at Camp Pendleton. That morning they participated in weapons field training and took part in a live fire demonstration with the Range Gunner.

Sweeney had a vivid recollection about his “very mean” drill instructor.

“He taught me all about saying ‘yes sir,’ ‘no sir’ 50 times in one minute flat,” said Sweeney.

By the end of the week, though, Sweeney and the Marine Corps personnel at the camp were shaking hands and trading smiles.

This wasn’t Sweeney’s first brief exposure to life in the military.

In November 2010, Sweeney received an education at sea when he was invited to spend a night aboard an aircraft carrier. Sweeney was chosen to participate in the Naval Forces Distinguished Visitor Program and was invited aboard the USS Ronald Reagan.

So, presumably, Sweeney may already be thinking about pursuing experiences with the Army, Air Force or even the Coast Guard, because he treasured his time with the Marines.

“It was amazing, just incredible,” Sweeney said. “I loved every minute of it.”