PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. - With their iconic, brimmed hats casting a permanent shadow over their eyes, Marine Corps drill instructors are charged with the task of molding ordinary Americans into the next generation of Marines.
"(Drill instructors) teach American citizens how to work as a team and to put their country and service above themselves," said drill instructor Staff Sgt. Amanda Dunn.
While most people's image of a drill instructor is one from the movies - an angry Marine constantly in a recruit's face, screaming with spit flying - those who have experienced it say it isn't always the case.
JOSEPH STENDER/ Sun-Gazette
Drill instructors always must keep a watchful eye on recruits during their 12 weeks of basic training. Above, a drill instructor yells orders at his recruits as they are given incentive training drills.
Gunnery Sgt. Beecher Edgecomb, who is nearing the end of his three-year term as a drill instructor, said they wear several hats including teacher, mentor, counselor and leader.
Once a recruit is finished with the week of receiving and processing, they are introduced to their drill instructors, who will be with that platoon of recruits through their entire 12 weeks of training.
"I always wanted to be a drill instructor because of my drill instructor," Edgecomb said.
While most fear their drill instructor when they first meet, a feeling of respect emerges after seeing how that drill instructor has transformed the recruit for the better with discipline and selflessness.
"My drill instructors were the epitome of leadership," Dunn said.
Like the recruits they one day will oversee, Marines wishing to become drill instructors volunteer and then are put into a 12-week school to teach them every aspect of the job.
"They teach you everything basic about the Marines," Edgecomb said.
Drill instructors learn the history of the Marines, drill instructions, physical training and what it means to live the core values - honor, courage and commitment.
"They teach you basically what a recruit should be doing," Edgecomb said.
Those Marines who graduate from drill instructor school say it's an unforgettable moment.
"It's an honor because drill instructor school is a real challenge," Dunn said.
After becoming a drill instructor, each must take the skills they've learned and use it to teach their recruits. Dunn said one of the hardest lessons to teach recruits is how to work as a team.
"A lot of these kids are about me, myself and I (before coming to recruit training,)" she said.
As far as the yelling, Edgecomb said they aren't taught how to but there's a reason for it.
"If you say something to a recruit, do you want to say it 80 times or once?" he explained.
And with the constant strain on their voices, new drill instructors are bound to lose their voices, he said.
Edgecomb also said yelling is another way of motivating the recruits throughout training. As he explained, the more energetic the recruits see him, the more spirited they'll be.
"If you're screaming, then they're yelling," he said. "They feed off your energy."
While many see the power and command drill instructors have, most don't see the sacrifices they make, as well.
As a drill instructor, they eat and sleep when they can, which isn't often as they must keep a watchful eye on the recruits through their training.
Edgecomb said there were plenty of times when he would wake up in his truck because he didn't have enough energy to get into his house.
And just like everyone else, drill instructors have their good and bad days.
"Of course, there are days where I don't want to get out of bed, but I have to put the mission first," Dunn said.
As Dunn and Edgecomb explained, the sacrifices they make are worth it when they're able to see their recruits complete the crucible - the three-day, final test that decides if a recruit graduates or not.
Recruits must use the skills they have learned through their training to complete 36 stations where they will walk about 48 miles throughout the three days.
On the third day, after completing a nine-mile hike to the Iwo Jima monument, recruits are given the Eagle Globe and Anchor from the drill instructor.
"There's not a dry eye (at the ceremony)," Dunn said.
"That's where you get your satisfaction," Edgecomb added.
It is during this ceremony that drill instructors see their recruits change. They now have earned the title of U.S. Marine.