Training Begins

This went on for what seemed like hours, but was probably only about 20 minutes. Then he said, “On your feet. I am going to my office for 30 minutes. When I come back, I expect to see every set of brass and boots shined to a high Marine Corps shine.”

As he walked out of the squad bay, he shouted “Carry on” over his shoulder.

Getting The Message

Some of us did get the message and began asking who needed help, then we rendered assistance to those who needed it. At the end of 30 minutes, the DI strolled back into the squad bay and began his inspection.

We all held our breath.

About halfway down the line he said, “I am becoming happier. I am seeing good things.”

We still held our breath.

At the end of the line, he turned on his heel and said, “It is still marginal, but it shows improvement. Be advised, further demonstrations of non-team attitudes will result in further, and more severe, punishment.”

He was true to his word. There were many times during that first phase of training when someone messed up and we all paid for it. But we soon learned to anticipate who needed help and gave help before it was too late.

Odd as it may seem, a training platoon in boot camp is similar to a sports team. In both cases, as long as players listen to the coach, keep their minds focused on the game, and work hard with each other, success is within their grasp. Teamwork is the common denominator.

In the Marine Corps, teammates must be prepared to support and rely on each other, literally for their lives.

And to take it a step further–boot camp can be compared to spring training. Everybody has made the initial cut to be there, and this is the final cut to see who will make the team.

In boot camp, the goal is to see if one can earn the title “Marine.”

Stress is part of the elimination criteria. If one can’t handle the stress of boot camp, the odds are one won’t be prepared for the rigors of combat.

A Life-Changing Injury

In my third week in boot camp, I suffered a hernia–popped it while we were doing side-benders with a telephone pole and made it worse when I pulled off my muddy boots.

That evening, at the daily “health and comfort check,” the DI marched in front of each of us, asking how we were. Unless something was wrong, we would normally answer, “Sir, the private has no physical or mental injuries or defects, sir.”

On this night, though, when asked, I responded, “Sir, the private doesn’t have any mental problems but believes he has a physical injury, sir.”

The DI stopped and grimaced at me, saying, “What is your problem, recruit?”

When I showed him the bulging area on my abdomen, his face lost all ferocity, and he said with concern, “Dang [not really the word he used], how long have you had that?”

“Sir, just today, sir,” I responded.

“You need to go to the hospital right now,” he said, grabbing my arm and propelling me toward his office. Within an hour, I was at the nearby Navy hospital, being checked in. I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen.

Early on the morning of the second day at the hospital, I received a personal visit from a Marine Corps major, who offered me two options that would change my life.

Next Month: Second Chances.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, who also served until recently in municipal parks and recreation, lives in Peachtree City, Ga., and can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email

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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

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