How Not To Remain Invisible, A Boot Camp Tale

Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, CA

Before heading into Boot Camp, I figured I would graduate a squad leader. When we finally dropped to our platoons, the buffoonery surrounding the competition for the spots as a squad leader and guide made me change my mind. The clown show began as aspirants fell all over each other jockeying for one these august positions amid the roaring of Drill Instructors. This chaos seemed so ridiculous I decided to simply remain invisible and be another recruit among the herd.

Over the next couple of weeks guides and squad leaders dropped like flies. The Drill Instructors cast their critical eyes upon the platoon, convinced America had finally run out of acceptable applicants to fill the ranks of their Corps. Every recruit they selected for a leadership position continued to think their job was to be a mini DI. This didn’t save them from summary judgement and a vehement, public firing. It was a bloodbath.

Throughout this, the DIs were shrewdly evaluating other recruits who were not running up like lemmings to be castigated as leadership failures and cast back into the mob.  I had no idea this was going on at the time but would later learn I was being sized up as a possible squad leader. 

Apparently I gained the attention of a couple of them during hand to hand combat training. At the time the Marine Corps close combat program was known as Linear Infighting Neural Override Engagement (LINE). It was a specially crafted acronym meant to describe a system dedicated to crippling, dismembering, and otherwise killing evil doers. This program spawned catchy phrases like: “Grab, twist, pull, grab!”  Real life use of LINE techniques would result in your boots being smeared with a thick paste of brains and teeth.

The Drill Instructors noticed I took particular glee in applying painful arm locks and wrist manipulations. We trained in a large pit filled with saw dust and wood chips where we leg swept one another with vigor. My lust for causing grievous bodily harm was considered a positive trait and duly noted.

Then I did something really dumb. I volunteered information that I had studies commercial art in college and suddenly I was the platoon “Artist Recruit.” This meant I put together art projects designed to teach recruits things like rank structure and other general knowledge.  I had irrevocably skylined myself. 

One afternoon I was summoned into the DI hut under the pretense to demonstrate my hand salute. In low growls the DIs explained they were considering me for a position as the next 3rd squad leader. The current one was showing more behind than a red-assed baboon. The Senior DI had no idea who I was. After his team briefed a few anecdotes about my bloodlust and gave me a once over with his x-ray vision: “Our 3rd squad leader punts it one more time and you’re in.”

That night, before lights out I was the third squad leader.

In the morning we endured another grueling PT session. My memory of what exactly we did is hazy but I remember our guide at the time had flat feet which were killing him. At the end of PT one of the DIs handed me the guidon: “You’re it.”

This may help you figure out which one I am in my platoon picture.

Eleven weeks later, by some miracle, I managed to end up graduating as the platoon guide. Go figure.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

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  1. 11 weeks has to be a world record. 11 hours is longer than average.

    Did they let you keep the guidon for such a feat?

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