Marine Corps Leadership Traits - Mental Endurance



Any Marine will tell you they have stories for all the Marine Corps Leadership Traits.

Although this story may sound different than most I must tell it because it focuses on the leadership trait of endurance. In my case it is mental endurance.

Anyone that knows me knows that during my Marine Corps Boot Camp experience I focused pretty heavily on food.















I lived for every meal that was served, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was one of the few things you could actually enjoy although they tried their best to ruin that too.

A typical meal would begin with us lining up in the chow line.


Marine Corps Leadership Traits – My eyes were locked in on the back of his head


The way you lined up was that you would be facing directly behind the person in front of you about four to five inches apart. I don't know for sure if it was that close or not but the bottom line was that it was too close in my opinion. If they moved forward you would move forward. You were like a well oiled machine moving closer and closer to the serving line.

There was to be no talking at all. Your head and eyes were to be locked in on the back of the persons head in front of you. Your eyes were not to move from the back of their head as you inched forward.

When you got to where the trays were you would pick it up and hold it with both hands so that it was in a vertical position in front of you next to your chest.

The distance between you and the person in front of you did not change as you inched your way closer and closer to the serving line.


Marine Corps Leadership Traits – The server would slop the item onto your tray!


Once at the serving line you would turn facing the server and inch along in a side step motion. You would stick your tray out if you wanted an item and the server would slop the item onto your tray.

You would not say anything to the server. You would not ask them to place it in a certain spot. You would not ask them for more. You wouldn't utter a word. You would not complain that they placed an item directly on top of another item. You would just keep inching your way through the line in a side step motion until you reached the end of the serving line.

Once at the end of the serving line you would go immediately to the milk, juice or water station and get one small glass of your choice. That would be placed on your tray and then you would immediately go to the next available seat and sit down.

Once seated you were to face your head down directly at your food tray and not look at anything else except your tray of food.


Marine Corps Leadership Traits – Drill Instructors would be hovering over you!


You were not to have wondering eyes.

You were not to talk to anyone at your table.

You were to only eat as fast as humanly possible and then take your empty tray to the conveyor belt that carried your dirty tray into the kitchen to be recycled and used for the next meal.

During this time the Drill Instructors would be hovering over you and others while you ate, waiting for someone to violate the rules so they could be ejected from the chow hall.

Now that was the process.


Marine Corps Leadership Traits – I lived for meal time!!


Now here is what happened to me on one day that I can't seem to shake out of my memory for over thirty-four years.

Like I mentioned earlier I lived for meal time in Boot Camp! They could have served hot cardboard and I would have eaten it before I knew what it was. In fact sometimes I'm not sure what they served was food at all, but it was good enough for me.

The one thing that tasted great no matter what was the Ice cold milk from the milk machine. The only problem with the milk was we were only allowed one small eight ounce glass of it per meal.

I would sometimes dream about after getting out of boot camp I would buy one of these machines just so I could have milk anytime I wanted. Now don't laugh. I know you can get milk from cartons and gallon containers and place them in a refrigerator. The point is that the milk was just that good.

One day after going through the chow line and getting my ice cold small glass of milk I sat down and locked my head and eyes onto my food tray.


Marine Corps Leadership Traits – Whatever they were calling food that day!


I took my first bite of what ever it was they were calling food that day and for just one very small instance I glanced over at the milk machine.

Before I could even begin to dream about a second glass of milk that I was never going to get anyway, the Drill Instructor bellowed out, "Private Covey get out of my chow hall now!"

My heart dropped in my chest! I thought to myself this must be a mistake. He can't possibly be kicking me out of the chow hall! Doesn't he know I live for this ever so brief moment to enjoy something to eat?

He can't be serious!

This time when he bellowed out he was right behind me leaning over my head, "Private Covey I said leave my chow hall now!"

"Sir, Yes, Sir!" I screamed from the top of my lungs in response.

As I stood and grabbed my food tray and began walking toward the conveyor belt to place it, I couldn't help but think about eating it and drinking my ice cold glass of milk on my way over.

At that moment I had an instant reminder of why this would not be a good idea as the Drill Instructor bellowed out one more time into my ear, "Private Covey you better get out of my chow hall right now! Hurry up! Hurry up!"

The thought of risking everything for a bite quickly left my mind! But more than anything else I couldn't believe I didn't get to drink my ice cold milk.

As I sat my tray with the milk onto the conveyor and hurried out I started thinking about my next meal as my stomach began growling.


Marine Corps Leadership Traits – Everything you were put through served one purpose!


The experience of missing that meal is stuck in my memory for ever.

This type of experience truly helps you grow! It teaches you that no matter what you can discipline yourself to overcome.

Each day there helped you understand more and more why everything you were put through served one huge purpose. The lesson was that with self discipline you can and will overcome anything.

In life we often have a choice between quitting or pressing on. It takes a great deal of mental endurance to overcome those difficult moments that are much greater than the above humorous story, but I will tell you that you can make it through anything with the right mental attitude! I did in much more difficult situations than this one.

Leaders find a way to move forward! That takes mental endurance!

Endurance is just one of the fourteen Marine Corps Leadership Traits!

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