Leadership Stories - My Marine Corps Boot Camp Experience?
This is just for your reading pleasure.
GET OFF THE BUS! GET OFF THE BUS! GET OFF THE BUS!
HURRY UP! HURRY UP! HURRY UP!
That was the way my Marine Corps experience started. Just like it does for every Marine.
That night we drove up in the bus from the airport was a very eye opening and life changing experience.
As we pulled through the main gate of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, my heart began to beat faster and faster.
Here I finally was on a journey that started several months earlier when I had enlisted under the delayed entry program with the Marine Corps. When I enlisted I was still in High School and only seventeen years old.
So here I was, the year 1975, about to start my career with the Marine Corps still only seventeen years old. Still wet behind the ears. Well that was all about to change.
When the bus was almost to a stop I saw the Marine Drill Instructor in his traditional campaign hat slowly walking in a very deliberate way toward our bus.
Now my heart was racing. I mean really racing. I was wondering if I had made a tremendous mistake.
Could I still change my mind, I was wondering. Was it possible?
The driver open the door quickly and the Drill Instructor walked up the steps and stood glaring at all of us.
Then he began to speak. Oh my God, this must be some kind of mistake he said. I can't believe they let you pukes into My Marine Corps. You all have made a huge mistake. None of you will make it one day in My Marine Corps.
On my command you have fifteen seconds to make it from this bus to those yellow foot prints and standing at attention. No one hear wants to be the last one, trust me!
GET OFF THE BUS! GET OFF THE BUS! GET OFF THE BUS!
HURRY UP! HURRY UP! HURRY UP!
I came to life like no other time in my life. All I knew was I was not going to be the last one to those yellow foot prints.
I climbed over and through people and got to those foot prints. Now there must have been fifteen or twenty Drill Instructor's now. They were everywhere and in our face. Yelling is all I remember.
They were not asking or wondering how our trip to the facility went. They didn't care if the flight was good. They didn't even care if we had a chance to grab a bite before we arrived.
There only motivation was to scare the crap out of us. Guess what? It was working. Now I was sorry I didn't go into the Air Force like my father. I had to be challenged by his statement that he didn't even think I would make it through Marine Boot Camp. Was he going to be right?
They were constantly in our faces. Letting us know that our life would end if we didn't respond to their every demand.
I couldn't think of any, but now I was beginning to wonder. I never had to think about that before.
Too late. I was in the chair and seconds later my head was bald. I suppose it was a lot like shearing sheep. The only difference was that sheep were treated better.
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 2!
This is a continuation of leadership stories on my experience in Marine Corps Boot Camp. I will continue them through my entire experience in Marine Corps Boot Camp.
Immediately after they shaved my head in about twenty to thirty seconds, we were herded off to a large room. I use the term herded because they continued to tell us we were not capable yet of any form of organize movement.
Sad to say they were right!
As I looked around it was harder to identify guys that just moments ago had hair. In a sense we all looked somewhat alike now. Keep in mind this was during a time long hair was the thing to have. A person's identify was kind of in the way they looked.
Well now that was all gone. Now our old identity was being stripped away piece by piece so that it could slowly be developed into something new. That something “new” was a United States Marine. We were not honored yet with that title, but we were at the beginning stages of earning it.
Bald heads were all around me. We were still in our civilian clothing. We looked ridiculous.
The Drill Instructors were relentless. They were in our face constantly. No matter what we said, it was never right, or loud enough. Picture for a minute someone yelling directly in to your ear from about half an inch away, I Can't Hear You! There campaign hat would bang into the side of your head as they screamed into your ear!
To them you were the lowest form of life known to mankind. Nothing you could do or say was going to change that. Even if you did exactly what they requested, it was not going to be good enough. They remained in your face.
Well I did and it wasn't a dream!
Prior to arriving I knew it would be bad. As a matter of fact I envisioned the Drill Instructor's yelling and screaming, but never did I imagine it was going to be like this.
Their mission was to tear us down to nothing. To make us believe we were dirt and lucking to share the same space with cow dung. We were no longer thought of as humans. We were constantly reminded that we were not fit to be Marines.
In the larger room we were told to stand at attention in front of these tables that were all along the walls. The tables were higher than normal. They came up to about our stomachs. We were at attention facing the wall. Why we were standing at attention in front of the tables I still don't know, but guess what, I did! I would have sat under the table, on the table, inside the table if that was what they had told me to do.
While standing at attention in our civilian clothes, with our bald heads, and our pride left at the front gate, we were called out, by name, to the head for a urinalysis. In layman's terms, a Piss Test! By the way, the term head is a naval term for restroom.
Needless to say, because I was unable to piss on demand in front of a yelling Drill Instructor, my life turned from bad to worse in no time at all. Now they were scaring something out of me, and it wasn't piss.
I became the center of their world. And their world was full of torment. I was accused of being a drug addict, because I wouldn't, no I couldn't, urinate into a bottle on demand in front of them.
I was tormented for over an hour. I was humiliated. I was abused in almost every way possible, until I finally was able to piss into the bottle. I was close to being broken. But I wasn't going to let them break me!
This was just one more piece of myself I had to give up, on my way to being transformed into the end goal, which was a United States Marine.
As I look back now, I am comfortable with what happened, and know that all of it was part of the process.
Call it brainwashing if you wish. But I call it “The Making of a Marine.”
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 3!
After my excruciating experience with the urinalysis, we were herded off to a squad bay that was filled with two long rows of metal framed bunk beds. On each bunk was two sheets, a pillow, pillow case, a blanket, a towel and wash cloth.
Also on the rack was a kit containing a disposable razor, shaving cream, tooth brush, tooth paste, and bar of soap.
The Drill Instructors were still full of piss and vinegar. They had us all select a bunk, which they referred to as a rack, and stand at attention in front of it.
They then barked out orders to make the bed, use the head (remember a head is a restroom) to shower and shave, and then hit the rack. Hit the rack meant that we were to go to bed.
Guys that I would later find out from places like the streets of Chicago and New York City. Some were there because they choose this over jail. Others, because they had no other place to turn.
I was able to make my rack pretty quick and then tried to see what the herd was doing. As I watched the herd, they seemed to be stripping down to their underwear and taking their towel, wash cloth and the rest of their restroom stuff with them to the head.
As I stood in front of the sink I looked into the mirror and I saw for the first time my bald head.
Wow! Did I look as stupid as stupid could possibly be. I found myself wanting to laugh, but held it back.
For the first time I really realized that this was for real. I was actually there. I was in the Marine Corps. No turning back now. To this point in my life I had never quit at anything. Every thing I did, I was successful at.
I didn't know it right then, but this was going to test every bit of my character. Who was I really? I was about to find out one moment at a time!
I finished shaving for the first time and then quickly showered, and off to the rack I went. I hung my towel and clothes over the metal railing of the top bunk. I crawled into the top bunk and laid on my back and starred at the ceiling.
It wasn't long before the lights went off. I wasn't sure what time it was. The one thing that stands out in my mind now was that I just still couldn't believe this was happening. A part of me was excited now. I was actually here. No more waiting. I survived the first encounter of the Drill Instructors.
My father never let me quit anything. He instilled a drive to never give up. He made me a survivor whether he knows it or not. I was not allowed to run. Running from anything was not offered up as an option. I didn't know it then, but that developed a character in me that I needed to make this experience better. If that was possible!
What was my next day going to be like? What Hell was in store for me and the other fifty-four guys that I will slowly learn to respect?
I finally fell asleep!
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 4!
The next morning I woke up prior to any activity taking place.
After I adjusted my eyes I was able to look around a bit even though it was very dark. I heard the sounds snoring. As I looked around a bit I could see in the distance the outline of what I was sure to be about five or six Drill Instructors in their campaign hats.
About a minute later the lights went on and they began banging the tops of metal trash can lids with night sticks. The sound was deafening but you could still hear them clearly as they walked rapidly through the squad bay yelling "Get Up - Get Up!", Hurry Up - Hurry Up!".
I stood there staring straight ahead, at attention, in front of my rack, in my underwear.
Everyone was standing at attention, staring straight ahead, in front of their racks, in their underwear.
Of course we got another lecture about how pitiful we all looked and how we didn't belong in their Marine Corps. A couple guys always got special attention for one reason or another. In most cases someone would follow the Drill Instructor with their eyes, without moving their head.
At this point we were instructed that we would start every sentence with "Sir", and end every sentence with "Sir". That we would speak in the 3rd person.
So if we were to address them, or anyone, it would be as such, "Sir, Private Smith requests permission to speak with Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Banks, Sir".
If we were granted permission we would continue with something like, "Sir, Private Smith requests permission to use the head, Sir".
If they addressed you, you would respond in the same way trying to answer their question.
God forbid if you started to cry. At this point no one had!
We were instructed to use the head, get dressed, and to fall outside into formation.
As soon as they gave the word, everyone scrambled to the head and did their thing. We all scrambled back, got dressed and ran outside and into formation.
This was going to be our first full day. Wow!
Instead of giving us normal marching commands the Drill Instructor just said "Mob, turn to your right!"
He continued "Mob, start walking forward!"
We did this until we reached the Chow Hall.
I was so jealous! Would we ever arrive at where they were?
At the Chow Hall we were instructed to line up front to back. We were to stand about two to three inches at attention behind the person in front of us. Once we grabbed a metal tray that had impressions for the main dish, and two side dishes.
We were to hold this vertically in front of us about chest high until we reached the food area. When we moved forward we were to take small steps while staying at attention. We were to not look around. We were to focus on the person's head in front of us.
Once you completed your meal you would stare at your tray until the Drill Instructor excused you. At that time you would take your tray to the dish room and fall outside into formation.
The next week was considered processing. When we finished processing we would actually start our training. This was continually stressed to us.
Each minute I was there I could tell I was being transformed. Each time I was able to survive an experience I felt that much better about myself.
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 5!
The next week was considered processing. When we finished processing we would actually start our training. This was continually stressed to us. Over and over they would tell us that we would be experiencing a whole different environment once training started.
Each minute I was there I could tell I was being transformed. Each time I was able to survive an experience I felt that much better about myself.
During the next week of processing we were issued our uniforms, sea bags, boots, underwear, more toiletry items, and a very small green covered edition of the new testament bible.
I must have signed a thousand documents. I went into the Marine Corps being able to sign my name so that you could read it, and now to this day, my signature looks like a chicken got loose on a piece of paper with ink on its foot.
I just remember being told to sign while the Drill Instructor was breathing down your neck encouraging, ya right, you to hurry up a bit. Couldn't tell you what I signed. For all I know I was giving away my vital organs, or my first born. Didn't care, at that time.
I wasn't that quick but I was still excited. For the first time I was looking forward to something. And to think we would be doing this every Wednesday. Wow, what could get any better than this.
Well Wednesday started off just fine like most days. In other words, it was hell also. Our normal routine of nothing good enough, fast enough, loud enough!
But now I had something to look forward to. They had not mentioned field day again, but I am certain we would be having one.
When we got back to the squad bay and prior to being dismissed to go inside, the Drill Instructor finally stated that we would be conducting a field day.
It was finally here. The final thing of the day! It didn't make a lot of sense because we had just ate, but what the heck. Who cared? We were finally going to have some fun.
He told us that upon being dismissed from formation we were to fall out into the squad bay and stand at attention in front of our rack again. No surprise there!
He dismissed us and I flew to the squad bay and was at attention in front of my rack in seconds.
He came into the squad bay and screamed out some directions that the first squad would be in charge of deep cleaning the left side of the squad bay. That the second squad would be in charge of deep cleaning the right side of the squad bay. That the third squad would be in charge of deep cleaning the sinks and toilets, and the fourth squad would be in charge of deep cleaning the showers.
Great! I was kinda of pissed now! You tell me we're going to have a field day and we are cleaning. What kinda sick joke was this. If we didn't get done soon and get on with the field day, we would run out of sun light.
Well, maybe this field day was going to be at night. Never done that before, but shoot, what the heck. I was up for it.
The time just kept slipping away as nothing ever seemed to be good enough for the Drill Instructor. We had to clean, and clean again. A person was practically blinded by the shine, and again, not good enough!
But finally we were finished. We passed the inspection. Shoot, we would have passed the inspection three hours ago, but they took some kind of sick pleasure in making us continually redo everything, over and over again.
We were back in front of our racks standing at attention again. Most of us were full of sweat and breathing a little hard.
The Drill Instructor then said, “You pukes have just experienced your first field day. We will be conducting these once a week on Wednesday evenings. I expect the same results each and every week. Do you hear me?”
Every Marine Recruit in the squad bay including myself screamed out, “Sir, Yes, Sir”.
“I don't hear you”, which became a very familiar response from the Drill Instructor.
Again, even louder this time, “Sir, Yes,. Sir!”
I was really looking forward to my version of a field day. But through my own ignorance, I was able to torture myself. Drill Instructor's Staff Sergeant Trotman, Muto, or Spence, had never told us that we would be having the old fashion track meet. I made all of that up in my tiny little head.
I was angry at myself now. All I could think of, was crap!
Tomorrow would be better. After all we would be officially starting our Training. That meant that we would be moving closer to finishing. It would be twelve weeks from tomorrow that I would be called a United States Marine!
Hang on tight! Things are about to get interesting!
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 6!
I woke up prior to the lights coming on. We had just moved into a different squad bay to start our actual training. They referred to them as T-Days. I had 84 days to go since today represented T1.
I was in the very first rack, closest to the head. And again I was lucky enough to claim the top bunk as mine. My foot locker right beside my bunk mates setting out in front of our racks, side my side.
The lights were still out. Thing had calmed down a little over the last week since arriving. I guess I was getting used to it a little. That seems a little hard to believe but true. We were in a routine. Up early. Get dressed and fall out into formation. Go eat breakfast. Come back from breakfast and clean the squad bay. Fall out again and go receive information, sign something, get a physical, get a shot, have our eyes checked, etc. During the day get lunch and supper at the chow hall. At some point end the day.
Now of course there was a lot more to it than that but it was a routine.
What in the heck was going on? There must have been twenty or more drill instructor's there! All running through the squad bay as if possessed by evil demons created just to make my life a living hell! They wanted us up and dressed and out into formation again.
It was different now though. They were getting very physical with us. Prior to this I don't remember them ever getting physical. As I tried to pick myself off the ground one of the drill instructors shoved me back down and asked if I was having a problem. “Sir, No, Sir”, I responded screaming from the top of my lungs as I tried to get up again.
Back down to the floor again I went. Same question! Same response!
I finally got dressed and outside. It was like a bomb had gone off in our squad bay. Almost every rack was turned over. Every foot locker was tossed. A couple obviously didn't have locks because the stuff in them was everywhere.
What point we’re they trying to make now? Were they trying to break us down some more?
My mind had been set one that first day that nothing, and I mean nothing was going to get to me. Nothing they could do or say was going to get in my way.
That it was time to separate the men from the boys.
I had been appointed a squad leader earlier because I had previously been in JROTC. I was the squad leader for the 4th squad. DI Staff Sergeant Muto was quick to inform me that no one had ever remained as a squad leader all the through boot camp. Would I be the first? Probably not!
Now in formation he came up from behind me and reminded me of that fact and told me that he would make it his personal goal to keep me from making it also. Now I don't know if he just told me this or not, but he sure made it sound personal. He whispered that he would be watching me. I believed him!
I don't know where they are today, but I would still have nothing but respect for them.
During the speech we were receiving they informed us that we would now be allowed to visit the PIT. They told us based on our pitiful performance in getting up and out into formation we would be visiting it after breakfast chow.
Not sure what the PIT was but it didn't sound like a fun place to go. I wasn't going to ever jump to any conclusions again after my thoughts of what a Field Day was.
If you broke, you started over. If you made it without being broken, you were given the title of United State Marine. I wanted that title!
Off to the Chow Hall we marched!
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 7!
After we finished breakfast we marched back to the squad bay. We were actually starting to march as a group instead of bouncing along.
You could always tell when someone was out of step. Their head would be going up when everyone else's was coming down. When this happened of course we would have to stop and listen to the kind words (not really) of the DI point out the obvious.
We had one guy that just never seemed to be able to keep in step. At least so far we did not have to pay a heavy price for this as a group. That would soon change however.
At the squad bay we spent the next hour or so, putting everything back into place that the DI's had completely disrupted that morning, and cleaning our assigned areas. My squad was assigned to the showers.
As I think back now I should have reported him. But, I was a seventeen year old kid, put in charge of street hardened men from various parts of the country. As I would learn, loyalty, must be balanced, not blindly adhered to.
Anyway, we finished our assignments and back into formation we went.
Now that we had officially begun our training, it was time to do more marching. Learning how to march seemed to be very important to the Dl's. Just our luck! At this point we were not very good at it.
The DI began giving us commands as we were marching by that directed us into the PIT.
My heart sunk just a little not knowing quite what to expect.
The PIT was a large open area that consisted of a sandy kind of dirt. It had about sixty or so pitted areas where the ground slightly was worn in a little bit.
The DI had us each get into one of the worn areas. He demonstrated to us what a four count bend and thrust was. A four count bend a thrust is where on count one, you bend down and place your hands directly in front of your feet. On count two you lift and support yourself with your hands and kick both feet together behind you into a push up like position. On count three you bring both feet together back to where they just were directly behind your hands that were still on the ground. On count four you stand back up.
It sounded even simpler when the DI said we would do ten four count bends and thrusts.
So we began our experience in the PIT.
We got to about six and the DI called out, "STOP, STOP, STOP, we are going to have to start over because Private (fill in the blank with the DI's choice at that moment) does not seem to want to do them correctly!"
We would then start all over at one again.
By this time we were exhausted. We now knew what going to the PIT meant. Trust me. You did not want to be there!
This was just one more way to push you to your breaking point, and some did break as I will explain in future pages.
The PIT was a real test of your will. It built character. It made me believe in myself, that I was able to undergo almost anything. It prepared me for so much in life.
I hated the PIT, but it was good for me!
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 8!
After about an hour and a half we finally finished our first experience in the PIT!
The PIT was going to become an extremely familiar place for us. However, the DI's never needed to specifically take us to the PIT to discipline us. We would later learn that any place would do. Even in our squad bay.
We continued on to the Drill Field to practice our marching skills. This was almost always a daily event for us, and in most cases more often than that.
I went to Boot Camp at the Marine Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. I couldn't tell you how it is set up today, but when I went through Boot Camp the San Diego Airport sat right next to us.
I mention this to help you envision in your mind trying to listen to the directions of the DI calling out cadence and marching instructions while a jumbo jet is taking off.
You guessed it, almost impossible!
As a squad leader, and out in front of the formation, you needed to be especially in tune with the DI or you would be going off in a different direction. You almost needed to be able to anticipate what they would be calling.
There were many times we would end up at the PIT because the DI would be calling out marching instructions during a plane taking off. Half the platoon would be going one direction and the other half going another. By now you may understand that the DI's didn't care, if you heard their command or not.
This was just one more example of how you over come situations. If the DI's would have allowed us to use the noise as an excuse, we would have never been able to over come it.
In life, don't allow yourself an out.
If you do, you will take it.
Just a like a river always flows down hill where there is the least amount of resistance, so will you. Start with what is right, and go there no matter what the obstacle is, or becomes.
Do not compromise!
If the Dl's would have, we would never have learned to overcome it.
Later on that day, we got prepared to go on our very first run. Remember up till now we were in what they referred to as processing days.
While we were still processing we had not all been medically approved to begin the physical training portion of Boot Camp. Now that we had all been cleared, this was our very first training day.
This left us in our boots, uniform pants, and T-shirt.
Where ever we went outside, the guide always carried the platoon flag. That included runs of any length. I always felt a little sorry for the guide, since they were the ones that had to run and carry it.
The guide is the person that was always out in front of our formation. Our platoon formation consisted of four squad leaders, which I was one of. Each squad had approximately 13 members, which consisted of one squad leader and twelve marines. Each squad was broken down into three fire teams.
So our run began.
Prior to arriving at Boot Camp I had worked out by running anywhere from one mile to around three. I was in pretty good shape. After all I was only seventeen years old.
At first I didn't get it. I didn't understand the purpose of running.
What would we be running from? Marines didn't run from anything, did they?
Well would soon learn again that running is all about endurance. Those that quit when they get tired will quit when the going gets tough. When the going gets tough, is the most critical time to not quit!
I do not want to be working or fighting side by side with someone that believes quitting is an option.
Because on the battle field, quitting may mean death! In the workforce, quitting may mean the death of an organization.
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 9!
We began our run on a dirt path that we had never seen yet. We were four abreast running at a rate of about an eight minute miles. The guide was out in front of the first squad leader carrying the platoon flag in a vertical position across his chest.
The flag was scarlet red with gold edges with our platoon number, 1094, across the middle in bold white colors. Platoon 1094 would become our identity to the other platoons attending boot camp.
The idea is to keep everyone in step. So you they calling out a phrase or words your right or left foot hits the ground. But you would do this according to however the DI called it out.
Here is just one example of several.
The DI would call out "I know a girl from a Mississippi town". Then all of us would sing that very loudly. Then the next line was "She makes her living going up and down". Then again we sang that back loudly. The next line was "Elevator Operator". Again, we repeated it back. The next line was "Deep Sea Diver". The next line was "That's my girl". The final line was "From a Mississippi town".
There were a lot of them.
I wasn't sure what to expect the first time out, but based on everything else that took place prior to this, I'm sure it would be another test of wills. Unless they had to pick my cold dead body off the ground, I was not going to give in.
For the most part the run was flat. I was actually enjoying it. We were able to see quite a bit of the area. We ran by the obstacle course. Now that looked like a good time.
We then had to circle around them in formation at a slower rate, but still running. I don't remember specifically how many had fallen behind, but it was annoying. Didn't they think that we would be doing this? Why hadn't they prepared themselves for this?
We learn in life that many times we can be absolutely ready, but a team member holds us back. Don't stop running though. Even if you have to keep the same energy level going, don't leave them behind. A team is a team. Everyone has different abilities. Capitalize on those abilities.
You will have time to excel when you are asked to perform individually. But, when you are asked to perform as a team, be a Team!
The DI did not make it very enjoyable for those that fell behind. But, we just kept circling around them all the way back to the starting point.
I was determined to never be one of those that fell behind!
I don't know how far we ran, but I knew then that I could do more without any problems. I was prepared.
But, once back, it was off to the PIT again. The reason! For the recruits that fell behind!
The DI let us all know why we were there. Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing for the leader. Not so much for the ones targeted!
I guess we spent about an hour or so there again. We did everything from the four count bend and thrusts to four count push ups. Even four count jumping jacks became almost impossible when you did so many you wanted to collapse onto the ground.
During this era of boot camp, letting us drink water was a real privilege. We had not had a drink since just prior to leaving for the run. Not until we got back to the squad bay did we get our first drink, and it tasted like heaven.
That night at Chow I was so hungry that I would have eaten dead bugs, cardboard, or anything else you placed in front of me. Unfortunately, we were only allowed one trip through the line, and one glass of milk, juice, or water. I thought for a minute about eating my metal spoon and fork, but decided against it. Probably would be a trip to the PIT for destruction of government property!
When we sat to eat, we were not to remove our eyes from our tray! We were not to speak! Just eat! Wait to be dismissed individually! Out to do as many pull ups as possible. Then fall into formation and wait for the remaining platoon members.
I looked so forward to meal time. I was always hungry there. Even though I love women, just ask my wife, I thought of cookies and ice cream when my mind was idle.
That night like all other nights we had to lay in our racks at attention even after the lights went off. To this day my wife tells me I lay at attention in bed. Old habits are hard to break.
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 10!
I laid there at attention in my rack after the lights went out. Although I was exhausted I couldn't help but think of this first day of training.
Could I make it through twelve weeks of this?
Would it get harder or easier with each day that passed?
I thought of the DI's. Each one a little different. They almost seemed like they were programmed robots or something. If they were, their inner programming was set to make our lives hell.
SSgt Muto whispered in my ear once while we were standing in formation that he was going to make it his life's mission to make sure that I didn't remain a Squad Leader. He told me that he never agreed to me being appointed to that honor and he was not going to let me get a stripe out of boot camp for it!
I believed every word that came from his lips. Why he didn't like me I was not sure. But one thing I was sure of, was that he didn't like me at all. As I look back on it today, maybe it was an act. I still don't know. But then it was all too real.
SSgt Muto, was a mean, mean person. He was short but I'm sure he could have picked up the side of the building with one hand while drinking a mug of beer with the other. Even if he wasn't strong enough to do this, the building would have jumped up off the ground because he was just that mean.
SSgt Trotman, was the most human of the three DI's we had. Although I was punched and belittled by him just as much as the others, he seemed to almost be a real person. I would have walked over burning coals for any of them, mainly because I would have been more afraid of the consequences of not doing so. But I would have walked over those coals for SSgt Trotman because of my respect for him.
Keep in mind I had respect for the others, but it was different. For the others it was like having respect for a hot stove. You know if you touch the hot stove you will be burned so you have respect for it. I knew if I didn't pay attention and react to what the DI's said, I would face the consequences. Therefore, I respected them.
But for SSgt Trotman, I had a different kind of respect. More of admiration. The kind of respect I hope I get from my kids or employees today. When he spoke you could take it to the bank. It was going to happen.
SSgt Spence was the most calm of all three. Although he got in your face and could raise his voice like all the others, I don't remember him like that. I remember him more for his devious smile. When he smiled you knew hell was on its way to your door step. Unfortunately he smiled a lot.
All three must have had part ownership of everything in the Marine Corps. Every time they referred to something it was, My Marine Corps! My Squad Bay! My Deck! My Chow Hall!
They took ownership in everything. I guess as a leader if you believe it is yours you certainly will treat it differently. I don't know that I would go to the extreme of calling it mine, but having the mindset isn't a bad idea.
Did the DI's ever have to start where we were at?. You know how you think of your Mom and Dad, or Grandparents. You feel like they were born into that role. Were the DI's born into the role of a Drill Instructor? Did God make them and place them right there, right then, just to torment us?
Probably not! Maybe! Oh well, I drifted off to sleep.
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 11!
The next couple of weeks were filled with a number of activities.
We began attending a lot of classroom type training that included all types of subjects from our new best friend the M16A1 rifle. As I understand it they have come out with a newer version, the M16A2.
When I say it was your best friend, I mean it was your best friend!
If your weapon was not locked up, you had it with you at all times.
We had lockable rifle racks in each squad bay that were securely attached to the wall.
Initially they were removed for a few different purposes, such as, marching, cleaning, and training.
During that first week of training, we learned everything you would want to know about the M16A1 rifle. We could take it apart and put it back together with our eyes closed. Actually that was very easy to do, since it was made well.
The weapon was introduced to the military around 1967. One of the improved features was the forward assist. The forward assist would help in the event the weapon jammed. Now keep in mind this was not a failsafe improvement, but it was an improvement.
If your weapon was not locked up, you had it on your person. It became a part of you. It was stressed that this was the difference between life and death on the battle field.
You would prefer that you go through the mud and dirt before you would let your weapon.
We cleaned our weapons at least one time per week. We would strip them down and clean every part. After cleaning we would oil them and have them inspected. In the beginning they were never clean enough, even if they were perfectly cleaned. You just got used to having to put more effort into whatever it was you were doing.
You really got to know this weapon, and to a degree it did become a part of you. If this was the weapon that went with me to battle, I wanted it to be perfect!
On the drill field is when we were marching with it. It also became a part of your movements.
Often the DI would stand so that you were marching right by him as he called off cadence. As you were going by if your weapon was not in the perfect position, he would grab your elbow and adjust it.
Now that sounds fine except that generally when he grabbed your elbow and adjusted it, it meant that the barrel of the weapon would slam into the side of your head. Although I was good at positioning my weapon, I did get the barrel treatment on occasion.
Your memory bank works very well when you have been hit with the barrel at least once.
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 12!
Fire Watch became a very common assignment for us.
The purpose of having a Fire Watch was to have someone awake and available to alert everyone in the event of a fire. It was also a form of guard duty for your individual squad bay.
I hated fire watch and any other form of guard duty that I had during my time in the Marine Corps.
In boot camp it meant that you would miss out on some very valuable sleep. Sleep was a very important commodity. It was not something you could catch up on.
Your duty on fire watch was to roam around through the squad bay making sure that the rifles were locked up and that the building wasn't on fire, etc. Generally the watch was one to two hours long, then you would wake up the next person assigned.
The only good thing about fire watch was that the Dl's were asleep and there was no one to be screaming at you. As I mentioned earlier the airport was right next to us.
Although the flights were considerably fewer at night it was still something to watch every now and then. Something that was somewhat interesting.
One of the thoughts that came to my mind a lot at boot camp was food, and especially when I was on fire watch duty. Fire watch was not very exciting, and that was just fine. Chocolate chip cookies and ice cream were my two favorites. The thought of a big bowl of ice cream and a chocolate chip cookie was like heaven. It was my way of escaping the reality of boot camp.
The only other thing that comes to mind is I always felt like I would never leave boot camp. In some ways I felt trapped there. I can't ever imagine being put in prison. The idea of not being able to come and go would eventually drive me crazy. It is hard to explain but I felt like this was going to be it for the rest of my life.
Part of any guard duty was to know your General Orders. We were to have them memorized so that at any time someone could ask you to recite any or all of the 11 General Orders.
General Order #1 - To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
General Order #2 - To walk my most in a military manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
General Order #3 - To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
General Order #4 - To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guardhouse than my own.
General Order #5 - To quit my post only when properly relieved.
General Order #6 - To receive, obey and pass on to the sentry who relieves me all orders from the commanding officers, officer of the day, and officers and noncommissioned officers of the guard duty.
General Order #7 - To talk to no one except in the line of duty.
General Order #8 - To give the alarm in case of fire of disorder.
General Order #9 - To call the corporal of the guard in any case not covered by instructions.
General Order #1 0 - To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
General Order #11 - To be especially watchful at night, and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 13!
Another day was upon us!
I don't remember the specific title of the class but the instructor was teaching us about why it was so important to take care of yourself when you were on the battle field.
If you remember this was at the end of the Vietnam War so most training referenced jungle type environments.
Go figure, I was someone that just hated insects. Any kind of insects! It didn't matter! Hated them all! I guess you could say I had a phobia of insects.
Did I need my head examined for yet another reason? The list was growing longer every day.
He was telling us to make sure that we always tried to keep at least one clean dry pair of socks. In the jungle having clean dry feet was critical. You did not want your feet to become infected with jungle rot, i.e., athlete's foot or any other type of foot fungus.
Your feet were extremely important on the battle. If your feet hurt, you were not going to be as effective as you could be. If you weren't effective it could mean your life, or a member of your platoon, squad, or fire team.
He stressed that when possible at least once per day change your socks and boots with the dry pair in your pack. Prior to doing so clean your feet as best you could. Then dry the pair of boots and socks that you just took off, prior to putting them back in your pack.
I was listening very, very closely.
What I did realize then and apply to my life today is that it is the little things that do make the difference. You can have the best automobile in the world. It may have a powerful engine, with leather seats, high performance tires, and all the other luxury and performance options available to man today. But if you don't change the oil when it calls to do so, sooner or later it will fail you.
Something so simple could ruin a great automobile!
Make sure you take care of the little things, and they will take care of the bigger ones.
The technique was to bury your face into where your arm bends between your forearm and biceps. Of course I am talking about the soft part of that portion of your arm. The important part was to make sure it covered your nose and mouth while making sure your mouth remained closed.
Noise could be a factor depending on where you were at.
It's funny now because when I sneeze I must have one of the loudest sneezes known to mankind today.
They also talked about if you became a POW. They stressed again about taking care of your health as much as you could. Use whatever you could to do things like brush your teeth, and clean your body. Be as resourceful as possible.
Anything more, even under torture, would be considered treason. I know I wondered if I would be able to handle it. I know I was only seventeen years old at the time, but I seemed so much older.
Each day that passed in boot camp, I was growing by leaps and bounds. Could I survive if I became a POW? Of course I could! Or at least that was becoming my mentality.
With each day, each class, each run, each encounter with the PIT, each encounter with the Ol's, I was more and more confident in everything I did.
I was no longer the innocent seventeen year old wet behind the ears. I was becoming a United States Marine. A slow but sure process! I may have been several weeks away from it, but it was becoming more of a reality every day.
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 14!
We were finally allowed to make our first phone call home! It was about 7 or 8 o'clock at night.
We went in very small groups to a set of pay telephones which were grouped closely together outside.
We of course had to march over there. We had to march anywhere we went.
I was not first in the line so I had the pleasure of waiting at parade rest. I guess I was third or fourth. Who cared, since I knew I would get my chance. Wait now or wait latter anyway.
The total time allowed was only a couple of minutes anyway, and the DI was standing almost right behind you. I don't think they really cared what you said. Although they warned us about telling the truth! We all knew what that meant. The secret code word for you better not tell them what really happens here.
This was the first time the DI's weren't yelling and screaming at us for anything we did.
At first I didn't get it, but I finally figured out that they didn't want the people in the background hearing them.
I dialed zero and was immediately connected to the operator. Can any of you remember back to a time when you had to go through an operator to make a collect call? This was during that time! Keep in mind going through an operator was a normal process.
I had to give the operator the number and she dialed it. The phone rang about three times and my Mom picked up the phone.
What a great sound! Her voice sounded so good! For an instant I was taken back to a time before ever arriving at boot camp. I hadn't even had a chance to speak with her yet. She was still responding to the operator asking if he would accept a collect call from me.
She hesitated for a minute. Just kidding! She said yes, yes in a very excited voice!
She asked a million questions but one of them really sticks out in my mind to this day, like it was just yesterday. As a matter of fact up until the time she passed away I used to kid her about the question.
She asked if I had a chance to get to Disneyland or the San Diego Zoo yet?
I was of course taken back by the question. Almost stunned. Didn't she realize where I was at. Wasn't she at the Denver airport when I hugged and kissed her goodbye.
Couldn't she remember that I had signed up for the United State Marine Corps. Had she forgotten. Why else would she have asked me if I had gotten a chance to go to Disneyland or the San Diego Zoo.
I told her no. I haven't been off the base even once. I didn't want to give her too much information since the DI was right behind me. I knew she didn't get it, but I was not going to try and explain it.
We talked about quite a bit, but it was all small talk. But it was still great! I wouldn't have given it up for anything.
My Mom never missed a day in writing me a letter. That's right, she wrote me a letter every single day I was there. Every mail call I got something from her. Even if the letter talked about feeding the dog or cooking supper for my Dad, she wrote it. I can't tell you how much that meant to me. It was a little taste of home every day except, Sunday of course.
I finished up my call and the second I hung up I knew I was back in boot camp.
A little ribbing by the DI about talking with my Mommy. I really didn't care about the ribbing.
Now keep in mind I never called my Mom Mommy, but that is where he went with it.
Back to reality!
Leadership Stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp – Section 15!
I have now made it to week four!
So far I have been learning so much as I had mentioned before.
We have received training on military history, customs and courtesies, basic first aid, uniforms, leadership and core values.
We have had to memorize things like our Rifle Creed, General Orders, the Marine Corps Hymn, Code of Conduct, and the Marine Core Values.
We had packed a lot into the little amount of time we had been there so far. This was in addition to the Pugil Sticks, which I will talk about on a different page, the amount of physical fitness activities, obstacle course, and more.
With the exception of Sunday mornings, our days were crammed packed full of activities.
What we were learning was to be able to survive without the conveniences of modern life.
We become so use to being able to just turn something on, flip a switch, or turn a knob, that we forget how to do some of the basics. Keep in mind this was back in the 70's also. That must seem like a life time ago to some of you. Yes we had some conveniences back then also.
Some of the basics like washing our clothes by hand. It wasn't hard at all. It just took more time to do.
In the fourth week we were scheduled for the swimming portion of our training. After all, we were a Department of the Navy. I guess we should be able to swim!
Speaking of the being a Department of the Navy, we had a saying in the Marine Corps. No offense to anyone, but we use to say, "Join the Navy and see the World! Join the Marine Corps and Protect It!" To all my fellow Navy comrades, please don't take offense. I'm sure you had some for us too!
The swim training was also something that I was looking forward to. I was a good swimmer and this was a chance to enjoy a little time in the water. Who knows I may be able to have some fun. Not!
The purpose of the training was to give us as much insight as possible on how to survive if the ship we were on would happen to go down.
I guess when you put things into perspective you must ask yourself that in order for the ship to go down, something must be pretty wrong. Were not talking about a cruise ship here! We are talking about a Naval Ship.
But, I just tried to absorb as much information as possible. I was one of those individuals that if you told me the stove was hot - I didn't touch the stove. I have worked with a lot of people over the years that if you told them the stove was hot - they had to touch it to see.
Point is that if you are training me on ways to survive if I end up in the middle of the ocean, then I am going to pay attention. Who cares why I'm there? I must have a need to know if they are training me.
Over the next few days we got a chance to get into the pool a lot. One of the final tests was to see if you could stay afloat in the water with your full uniform and boot on. Not a problem for me. Of course I would remove my boots if this was reality, and I was truly in the ocean.
Some of the techniques were to remove your trousers and tie off the legs. Hold them over your head and try to capture some air into the top part as you pull them down into the water. The purpose was to have them try and act as a flotation device. I'm not sure you can picture this in your head, but it kind of worked. At least for a brief period.
Hope the rescue boat arrived quickly though.
Now again if you think about it, the pool is nothing like the ocean. Picture in your head! You were on a ship that just went down or is on its way down. You are in the ocean and hopefully it is not freezing water. If so, your time on this earth is limited to about ten to twenty minutes.
The ocean is not a perfectly calm body of water. So if the weather was bad, who knows what conditions you would be up against! So relaxing in the water may be a bigger challenge than one thinks.
But when they were training us, this was not mentioned. Age has a way of making reality even more prevalent. Must I remind you I went to boot camp in 1975! You do the math to knowing about how old I am!
The other test they had for us was jumping off the tower in our uniforms. I guess that was to simulate jumping off the ship. Didn't seem that tall, but to some of the guys it was like jumping off the Empire State Building. To me it was fun.
I'm not sure how tall it was but I would say twenty or thirty feet or so.
I am certain that we had some that had major problems with the swimming portion, but somehow they made it through. No one was dropped.
The funny thing about Marine Corps Boot Camp was that it was the great equalizer. I was a seventeen year old, wet behind the ears, naive guy from Denver going through the same training as the guys from the mean streets of Chicago or New York City. Guess what? They had the same challenges as I did, and in some cases I did better.
Toughness comes from within.
The Rifle Range was next. We would have to travel for that to Camp Pendleton.
The Marine Corps Flag still gives me a feeling of pride even though its been more than 22 years since I was in the Marine Corps! Read my Leadership Stories below on my experiences in the Marine Corps!!
Thank you for visiting this page on Leadership Stories and May God Bless You!