360 Degrees Of Insecurity

   A boot camp vignette.  

   Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Sand Diego, CA.

   When it comes to recounting particulars about boot camp,  I can rarely recall on what specific day events took place. Mostly I remember it pretty much sucked and just may have been one of the most hilarious experiences of my life.  My thinking mind switched off on day one and didn’t really turn on again until the week we did mess duty two months or so later. 

   We recruits enjoyed some slight autonomy during mess week as we worked in the chow hall preparing and serving food, or working in the scullery cleaning gravy off of everything. Up until then there was no talking to one another in the mess hall.  Now we also took some perverse joy in torturing recruits junior to us. The fact someone in the Marine Corps was newer than we were was just too much to resist. I recall seeing a recruit come through the chow line so new he hadn’t even been to the barber yet.  Everyone was instructed to arrive with running shoes. This character had cowboy boots on. I approached this terrified individual. His curly uncut hair quivered as he stood at rigid attention, eyes locked straight forward. I looked him up and down saying: “Dude, I know they said this was boot camp but you didn’t have to take them literally.”
    During our mess week some retirees had come to eat at the chow hall.  I was running around on some important mission most likely involving trying to avoid detailed scrutiny by nearby Drill Instructors. As I hustled by, one of the gentlemen stopped me.

    “Hey, son.  Which way is north?” He gestured in a random direction. It seemed I could settle a small matter between the greying vets seated there.

    Before I knew the words were spilling out I blurted:  “Sorry sir. After a while we can’t even tell which way is up.”  The salty old Marines chuckled knowingly and let me go on my way.

Enjoy the holiday!
America’s SgtMaj

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  1. I went to Boot camp back when the DI’s could still beat on the priv’s. One instance I remember was at parade practice near the end. I don’t remember what I did, but one of the DI’s came over, sword drawn and got in my face. The next thing I know, he’s got the point of his sword digging into my chest and threatens to run me through. Good times.

    A couple of years after boot camp, there was the unfortunate incident when a recruit was beaten to death on the pugil stick range. Boot camp changed after that.

    I got a couple good smacks up side the head, most of us did, but in the big picture, no one suffered any permanent damage. It’s such a shame that a couple of rouge’s screwed up something that was working. When we left that 13 week experience in hell, we were good Marines.

    My son and oldest grandson both became Marines and even thought the training is a lot different now, they both served and made this old Marine proud. My son got out and spent some time as a private contractor. He’s not going to recon school after deciding maybe the Corps is his best bet.

    Semper Fi. USMC, 1973-1977

  2. 1. That’s why you are a Sergeant Major. Guess you could always think on your feet.
    2. When I went through boot camp had been around the block in the Army, wasn’t particularly intimidated by what was going on and the cleverest thing I came back with was, “Sir, yes sir!”
    3. The McClure incident took place in December of 1975 -at PI. Went through shortly after that.
    4. Thumping was strictly forbidden. The Hats weren’t even supposed to swear or speak harshly to trainees.
    5. The relief rate for drill instructors was very high (It’s not exactly low now, BTW) and their morale was rock bottom.
    6. Combined with what happened at Koh Tang Island, the evacuation of Saigon and a few other little items, was a low point in Corps history.
    7. Naturally, that’s when I decided I wanted in.
    V/R JWest

  3. The thing that stuck with me about Boot Camp was that somewhere around the middle of 3rd phase, thoughts, and conversations concerning our past lives in The World started to take on a comic book feel.

    – Grimmy

  4. Glenn Mark Cassel said…
    I was at NTC/RTC right next door in from 29 Sep 1973 until 14 January 1974.

    Sep 29 is my birthday. It’s also the day in 1973 that we left ITS at Pendelton and returned to MCRD for 3rd Phase.

    Good times.

  5. Robert, worst I got was the Senior DI demonstrating all things he was no longer allowed to do on me.

    Glenn, sadly, I believe NTC closed down in San Diego years ago.

    JWest, the 70’s weren’t especially bright for our breed. Glad you were there to help out.

    Grimmy, I remarked to a fellow recruit that I hadn’t had an individual thought in my head for over two months.

  6. 1. Wow.
    2. Didn’t want in to help out.
    3. After screwing up life as a civilian for a few years, decided that since I was OK at being an anti-social trigger puller, I’d give that a shot, again.
    4. Only this time, wanted to serve in an outfit that didn’t totally suck.
    5. Found out the Corps had problems of their own.
    6. My first unit was still licking its wounds after the Koh Tang Island thingie. The participants view on that was decidedly different from what the history books say.
    7. Was also in the neighborhood when Mel Spiese (then CAPT, now LTGEN) told GEN Barrow that the regimental staff was full of….that 85% of his troops were using dope, not 15%, and that he had troops with 7 or 8 NJP’s that he couldn’t discharge. Was news to the Commandant.
    8. Two months later we got authorization to discharge anyone with three or more Article 15’s.
    9. That’s what I call helping out.
    V/R JWest

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