I Survived U.S. Marine Corps Boot Camp ‘Shark Attacks’
The intense experience of USMC Boot Camp is one I'll never forget.
USMC Boot Camp was extremely challenging, especially frequent highly-stressful encounters with tough, no-nonsense Drill Instructors.
Recently I came across a Military Times article online entitled, With 'shark attacks’ a thing of the past, soldiers recall these classic drill sergeant one-liners. The basic premise of the article was that although 'shark attacks' might be a thing of the past, that doesn't mean they'll be forgotten. I certainly haven't forgotten mine.
That article reminded me of my time in U.S. Marine Corps Boot Camp (basic training) in 1970 at the USMC Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego, California. The infamous ‘shark attacks’ were still very much in use at that time. The article said "The decades-old practice of screaming at trainees as they disembarked the bus on Day 1 of infantry training, a tactic used to establish “psychological dominance,” has indeed been replaced by a new strategy intended to emphasize teamwork and trust."
Obviously, my time in Boot Camp in 1970 took place in the not-so-enlighted days of training compared to what recruits "enjoyed" many years later. But it would be a big mistake to think the training is easy nowadays. It's definitely not. Recruits may not get verbally or physically harassed the way they used to be, but they get the same rigorous training as always to turn them into Marines ready for whatever they may face.
But back to my own time in Boot Camp: One day I messed up something really badly (I don’t remember what I did), and my Drill Instructor (Drill Sergeant) got right up in my face and yelled, "Private, you’re dumber than a box of rocks!"
Well, I thought that was a bit harsh, but I was in no position to argue with him. But he certainly got my attention that day.
He was just a typical Drill Instructor (DI). In my three months of boot camp that summer, I got yelled at plenty more times -- even when I didn’t do anything wrong or because somebody else in the unit screwed up (group punishment was common).
Besides the verbal abuse, we often received physical punishment, such as pushups, jumping jacks, etc., which helped get us in great physical condition, which all part of the overall training plan, of course.
While being punished, I fantasized about becoming an officer someday and getting my revenge on that Drill Instructor. But I’m sure I would have treated him with a lot more respect than he treated me -- after he got down and gave me 50 pushups, that is. ;)
Boot Camp was really tough but I graduated and went on to spend three years in the Marines as a Military Policeman before getting out to attend college in 1973.
My time in the Marines was a very formative experience for me as a young man. It made me a much better person, both physically and mentally, which benefitted me greatly for the rest of my life. Semper Fi!
I did eventually become an officer but not in the Marine Corps. Nine years after leaving the Marines, I joined the U.S. Army and graduated from Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in 1982.
I served 20 years as an Army Signal Corps officer and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2002. After I retired from the Army, I spent the next thirteen years as a Defense Contractor working for major companies such as Unisys Corporation. My specialty was Information Technology (IT) and related services, and I rose through the ranks to become an executive.
So when all was said and done, I guess I turned out to be a bit smarter than a box of rocks, after all.
Thanks for reading.