Training Begins

Once A Marine, Always A Marine, Part Two

This is the second in a series depicting one man’s experience in Marine Corps boot camp; the story continues just after the “recruits” have met their new training drill instructors (DI).

Learning to become a team.

Once the drill instructors impressed upon us the importance of listening to every word they said and complying immediately with every order, the real training started.

We quickly learned that there is no “I” in team. Referring to oneself in the first person is a big-time no-no. Recruits must refer to themselves in the third person, i.e., “Sir, this recruit requests to go to the head [Marine and Navy term for bathroom], sir!”

Whenever addressing a drill instructor or any other person other than another recruit, the first or last word out of one’s mouth is “sir,” or “ma’am.”

There are dozens of similar rules to learn, and failure by one person in the platoon can often lead to appropriate punishment for the entire group.That punishment always includes some form of physical exertion, which may consist of push-ups, sit-ups, mountain climbers, or “bends and thrusts,” which is a perverted form of a push-up, and others.

The punishment actually serves two purposes. First, it pushes a person beyond normal limits, and ultimately makes him or her stronger. Pain, as Marines say, is weakness leaving the body.

Second, it emphasizes the meaning of team. The first reaction to this punishment by teammates is to be angry at whoever messed up. But at some point, it begins to dawn on them that they need to help team members improve in order to benefit the entire team.

Becoming A Team

I remember the first really grueling punishment session we had, on the second or third day of training. A few of my teammates hadn’t paid proper attention to detail in shining their brass belt buckles and black leather boots–two cardinal rules in the Marine Corps.

The drill instructor paced up and down the squad bay as platoon members sat on their foot lockers that evening, shining away. I can still remember the conversation that led to our group demise.

“I am seeing some mighty ugly brass,” the DI said in a loud voice to nobody in particular. “I am seeing boots that look like they have been shined with a Hershey bar!”

There was an unmistakable hint of threat in his voice. He was obviously unhappy. I doubled my rate of shine and kept my eyes glued to my work. Eye contact sometimes provoked these creatures called DI’s.

Then he stopped in front of a recruit a couple of foot lockers away, picked up one of the recruit’s boots and said, “Recruit, do you call this shined?”

My heart sank when I heard his response because I knew what was coming.

The recruit jumped to his feet and stammered, “Sssir, I did the best I could, sir!”

“’I’?” bellowed the DI. “Did you just use the word ‘I’? You must not be part of this team because there is no ‘I’ in team. Well, the rest of this team will pay for your mistake. Everybody assume the push-up position!”

Then, for what seemed an eternity, we did every form of push-up ever devised. But as we were doing them, the DI was explaining why we were doing them and how to avoid having to do them again.

“This team has failed to assist teammates who needed help,” he said slowly, as he made us hold the “up” position.

“Down and hold,” he said, prompting us to go to a holding position with chests 6 inches off the ground.

“You will learn that being on a team doesn’t mean you do your thing and not worry how your teammates are doing. You take care of your teammates because someday you may need help and you want to rely on your teammates to be there … up!”

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Training
  2. Earning the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor
  3. Staff Training
  4. Leadership By Wandering Around
  5. The History And Tradition Of Recreation
  • Columns
  • Departments