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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Semper Fidelis continued..

My platoon was made up of fragments of other platoons and us newcomers as we were between training cycles.A good group non the less.The guide,the marine who carries the unit guide-on in formation,was a very tall kick-boxer from New York City.Every so often he had to have his feet shaved so he could get his boots on.I say shaved meaning the callouses on his feet were so thick he could not get his boots on.He would have to go to the sickbay and get them shaved off.Another job in the platoon filled by a recruit was the unit secretary.The secretary was a college educated recruit who early on in training stood outside the railing on the top deck of the squad bay threatening to jump.Our drill instructor studiously ignored him for several minutes,finally turning towards him.At this time the recruit feigned jumping.The drill instructor snatched him off the ledge declaring"You can't jump now boy,not while I'm looking at you." That was the end of the recruits training days as he was shipped home.We needed a new secretary.I was observed taking notes at a rapid pace and deemed the most qualified to fill the position even without college.As secretary I kept a roster of the platoon at all times and did other reports daily for the platoon.Being in the drill instructors office(there were three)I gained a perspective few recruits attained.I always did all physical training with the platoon,both regular and punitive.
During one phase of training we did log drills.This consisted of five or six recruits lifting a log with a radius of six to eight inches,which means the log was twelve to eighteen inches wide,from one shoulder to the other sometimes pausing in the up position.We also did sit ups with the log on our chests.This activity promoted unit cohesiveness as you had to work together to accomplish the task.
It was during a lifting session where I was in the middle and taller than my fellow recruits I experienced a distinct snapping sound in my head.At that point there was no task I could not accomplish.Like breaking the sound barrier I had broken through to the next level of mental and physical tolerances.A success for the marines as boot camp is an eighty-six day stress test that will make or break the individual recruit.
During recruit training every platoon did a stint in the mess hall on kitchen patrol or K.P.I ran the dishwasher,rinsing the trays and utensils before running them through the steamer.Another duty was standing fire watch.This was done in our squad bay and in the squad bay that housed the recruits that didn't make it and were going home.Some of them had problems sleeping and would wake up screaming.I comforted those I could with a calm word and assurances they would soon be home,even though I carried a nightstick that I never used.
During a pugilist stick fight(simulated rifle with bayonet,padded on both ends)I hyper-extended my right elbow knocking out a fellow recruit.I also had my bell rung a couple of times during this exercise as that was the object if the drill.If you won a bout you stayed in the ring till you lost.With my elbow stiffening I kept flexing it so I could run the confidence course.My time on the course was one minute fifteen seconds.
We also had close combat training with the rifle bayonet,knife fighting and hand to hand techniques.My favorite part of the manual was the part when confronted by three of the enemy the Marine should 'kill two as quickly as possible to concentrate on the third.'Good advice.On the rifle range I shot expert and was going to be platoon champion but dropped a round somewhere.I remember resting my head on the bore of my rifle and started a minor panic among the drill instructors.They thought I was going to shoot myself but I convinced them I was just resting on the only piece of furniture I had.My rifle.I certainly wasn't going to put the bore in the dirt.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Duty. Semper Fidelis.Motto of the United States Marine Corps.

My memories of boot camp,or basic training,are vague.There was a check in desk at the airport for marine recruits.I knew when the corporal's response from behind the desk was a curt,'Don't smile at me recruit.',that I had arrived.After only talking with recruiters this was the first rude word I had heard.I knew it wouldn't be my last.It was remarkable that the corporal had port and starboard inlays in his two front teeth.Green on the right,red on the left.
we boarded the bus to the recruit depot while the sergeant berated and abused us verbally.Then we disembarked the bus at the depot,and all learned how to stand on yellow footprints.This was my first formation(although I didn't know it).The first thing that happens is the haircut.I think the barbers were all Filipino.We were told to put a finger on any mole or whatever so as to keep it.How does someone who has always had hair know if there is a mole there?They didn't,and it was the first blood they gave for their country.No purple hearts that day(joking).The haircut had a dual purpose.It kept down the head-lice population,and it had a psychological impact as well promoting uniformity and unity.Then we went on to the supply warehouse.There we were "issued"(to be taken out of our pay later)utility uniforms,combat boots, and the essential clothing and toiletries to begin basic training.Then we were herded(at the time I thought I was marching but I learned better)to the temporary barracks till our platoon assignments came in.My first night,lying on that lower bunk,I wondered along with everyone else if I'd made a mistake.
The next morning I was awakened to the sound of the metal trash can lid crashing down the aisle.Next the can and the sergeant,bellowing something incomprehensible.
We stood in our skivvies at the end of our racks beside our footlockers.There we were given our instructions for the day.Watch the movie 'Full Metal Jacket'.It was just like that.I saw that movie 20 years after my discharge. Katy said I stood at attention the whole time the boot camp scene was on.I don't remember it though,except it was very tense.After three days of sweeping sidewalks and grounds-keeping we received our platoon assignments.