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Thread: Boot Camp
11-04-02, 11:19 PM #1firstsgtmikeGuest Free Member
TRAINING A FEW GOOD MEN
By Chris Barron
How do young men, mostly teenagers, handle the mental and physical strains of the military's toughest boot camp? You're stupid, dumb and worthless. And those are on your good days.
You're just a measly recruit. You're not a Marine. Not yet anyway.
Your identity and all that you know is stripped from your being like the civilian clothes you wore off the bus to boot camp.
And when you make a mistake, which can happen at any time for any reason, you can be sure you'll be made an example for your entire platoon to see.
Take for example, David Barr, a 2002 North Kitsap High School graduate. As Barr descended a 60-foot tower during a rappelling exercise, one of his drill instructors singled him out. The DI knew Barr's hometown paper was following him that day.
"The headline is going to read, 'Recruit screws up!' " the drill instructor yelled.
"They make you feel stupid at one point or another," said Barr as he entered his final week of camp in mid-October. "No matter who you are, everyone's going to get made a fool of.
That lesson was quickly driven home to Reggie Williams, a 2002 Bremerton High School graduate.
In just his second week of boot camp, Williams, a squad leader and considered one his platoon's stellar recruits, managed to consistently draw the wrath of his drill instructors.
"I've screwed up a lot," he said. "I've done some stupid things.
"If you do something wrong, you might have two or three guys screaming in your face telling you you're not doing it right."
For 13 weeks, it's a life that is not your own. Considered by far the toughest of any of the services, Marine boot camp constantly challenges with head games and tough physical training.
The hardships of camp are nothing compared to a real battlefield. And that, Marines say, is why their boot camp is the toughest.
"This is the way it is in the real military," senior recruit and 2002 Bremerton High grad Peter Steagall said of the intense, exhausting exercises. "So that's the way we train."
From the moment they step into a waiting bus at the airport, they become Marine recruits.
"When you get off the bus, you wonder, 'What the hell is going on, and what the hell did I get myself into?' " Barr said. "You can have 20 drill instructors around you and just screaming at you. You're already tired, and you don't know what's going on."
The first of the 13 weeks is supposed to be an introductory period when processing and paperwork are completed and not much else. But that's not what the drill instructors have in mind.
"The first two weeks tend to be the hardest adjustment," said drill instructor and Moses Lake native Staff Sgt. James Ossman. "They're making the transition from civilian to recruit. The stress never really turns down. They just have a harder time dealing with what we expect from them in the beginning."
Those expectations include changing a recruit's entire way of thinking. They learn how to speak, how to stand, how to walk, how to shower, how to eat, how to sleep and how to wear the uniform. They even have to ask to go to the bathroom.
Recruits can only speak in third person and can't use the words me, I, we, them, us or you — for example: "Sir, this recruit doesn't understand why the drill instructor won't let this recruit use those words."
"It's kind of a culture shock," Williams said. "You come in being able to go wherever you want or do whatever you want, and all of a sudden you have to do everything by a certain rule."
"It was as if you don't know anything," Richard Sweetman, a 2002 Bremerton graduate, said of the first few weeks. "Everything is so confusing. You don't know what you can eat, what time you can sleep or what happens next. You realize the drill instructors have unlimited possibilities on what they can do to you.
"You just have to figure out what buttons do I not want to push and what limits do I stay under."
Recruits will say the hardest part of boot camp isn't the mental or physical challenge; it's being away from home.
Finding the changes in their lives staggeringly difficult to handle, recruits can't rely on family for comfort or support.
When a recruit arrives at boot camp, he gets a five-minute phone call home to let his family know he made it safely. Besides writing and receiving letters, that's the last contact most have with their family for the next three months.
"Usually, in weeks two through four are the times they most come to us," said Chaplain Ken Medve, one of eight chaplains at the San Diego boot camp. "Ninety-nine percent of them are homesick.
"There's a lot of stress, but if they get a time where they need to let out and decompress, they can come to us. We're the one place where they can go and get complete confidentiality."
Considering that the average age of a recruit is 19, and most are straight out of high school, the adjustment is difficult.
"You want to go home every day," Williams said. "There's a lot of guys who want to quit. They talk about quitting every day."
Carlito Schlemmer, a 1995 Olympic High graduate, was an exception ... a happy, satisfied recruit. But he had a big advantage over the others — he's 25 and has worked six years in the real world. His maturity showed.
Interviewed in his seventh week of boot camp, Schlemmer said he hadn't had a difficult time with the mental aspects. But he admitted he can't wait to get home once boot camp is over.
"It's been tough, but there have been some days where it's very motivating," he said. "To be honest with you, yes, I do want to go home, but I have enjoyed my time here."
On the other end of the age scale was J.J. Zettle, 19, a June graduate of Olympic High School away from home for the first time. Zettle said he tried to prepare himself for the stress.
"Boot camp's rough," he said. "It's a little bit harder mentally than I expected. There are a lot of mental games. I came in thinking, 'They can yell at me all they want.' But there are times when you're thinking, 'I don't want to deal with this now.' "
Physically, Schlemmer could be a Marine poster boy. In the four months since he signed on the dotted line to join, he's lost nearly 70 pounds, turning a somewhat soft, pudgy civilian into a well-trained, fit specimen.
"Before I came here, the only exercise I got was walking to my car," said Schlemmer, who lost 20 pounds before arriving at boot camp and another 40 to 50 during. "I feel a lot of energy. Our drill instructors are very motivating."
The physical demands placed on a recruit aren't overwhelming, but they consistently must live up to and maintain certain standards. A recruit must be able to do at least two pull-ups, 35 sit-ups and run 1.5 miles in 13 and a half minutes to pass the initial strength test.
Those who don't face three weeks in a physical conditioning platoon before they can even begin boot camp.
"Nothing amazes me as far as a recruit goes," drill instructor Sgt. Brian Bland said with a laugh. "We get strong ones, weak ones, smart ones and ... ones who aren't that smart."
From the first week of boot camp, recruits are subjected to constant physical training in addition to the required long runs and marches.
"My pants don't fit anymore," said Steagall, who lost about 25 pounds in the first seven weeks. "I have to tighten them real bad to keep them up. You eat three meals a day, but training is so hard."
During the first week of rifle training, recruits must sit crossed-legged, kneel and stand while practicing firing without bullets. It might not sound difficult, but try sitting cross-legged for 30 minutes holding a rifle without switching positions for a little perspective.
Although some stereotypes are true, boot camp also is a more supportive environment than traditionally thought.
And there are limits.
In the new "PC" Corps, drill instructors can't swear and can't touch a recruit (unless aiding him in training).
"When you figure out that they have limits," Sweetman said, "it becomes a little easier to deal with them."
Recruits also are supposed to get 20 minutes to eat and eight hours of sleep. They will tell you, however, that rarely happens.
Drill instructors, despised at first by most recruits, also must walk a fine line between motivating — most often practiced as in-your-face yelling — and teaching.
"A lot of people think they come in and go to boot camp and they're hazed from day one, they're brainwashed and they're turned into some killing machine," said Gunnery Sgt. Robert Meyer, a 17-year veteran and three-year drill instructor. "That's not true. Yes, they get yelled at. But there's a standard, and they're held to it.
Marines will say that boot camp is one big reality check.
Drill instructors may be hard on the recruits, but they can't be as hard as operating in the hostile regions of the world. For Marines to survive adversity on the battlefields, drill instructors feel they must create some at boot camp.
"We are trying to ... build mental toughness," senior drill instructor Staff Sgt. Mitchell Green said. "When it comes down to a situation where you're tired, your mental toughness is going to get you through."
Near the end of boot camp, drill instructors begin to show their human sides. They share their personal stories and recruits begin to see them in a different light. By graduation, the relationship often becomes a strong bond.
"We had one drill instructor who was especially hard on us," Barr said. "He was the cause of most of our pain. We all hated him. And then we began to realize that he was just trying to train us to be the best Marines we could be. We all had the most respect for him."
Published in The Bremerton Washington Sun: 11/03/2002
11-04-02, 11:44 PM #2
It sounds a bit easier than when I went thru.
On the other hand, I've been tellin' some of the new guys that it's tougher than they think it will be, and most don't want to hear it.
Maybe they''l believe a report from a news organization in one of the liberal bastions of the nation.
Thanks First Sergeant.
11-05-02, 01:04 AM #3
Thank you First Sergeant for posting this. It was informative.
11-05-02, 01:18 AM #4firstsgtmikeGuest Free Member
One aspect of being middle aged is that you have a pretty fair idea as to how the rest of your life will turn out.
I prefer to light a candle, or hold a torch for the youngsters.
Everyone can respond, if called upon, to name the five most influential people in their lives. The ones that gave them the right push at the right time.
Generally, the list starts with mother and/or father, a special teacher, a coach, and then the stretch to name two more.
I'm on an ego trip. I want to be on the top five list of as many people as possible before someone pulls the plug on me.
And the lesson is more important than my name.
03-04-08, 04:53 PM #5
Hey that guy David Barr was me 6 years ago, ha ha. Sgt. Barr now though
03-04-08, 08:22 PM #6Originally Posted by david529
03-05-08, 12:27 PM #7
Yeah sure, i was vainly attempting to google myself when i stumbled upon this. I remember the newspaper Add had a picture of me rappeling in my BC's
03-19-08, 11:21 PM #8
So what was the hardest part of boot for everyone? Forgive me if I missed this in another post. I searched and couldn't find it. I have 1.5 years before I can join but every time I come here or see ANYTHING involving the Marines I wish that 1.5 years was up. So I'm very curious. Boot camp seems like a love-hate relationship for me: I love what it accomplishes and seem to understand WHY the DI's do what they do and say what they say (I have no h about the hell of combat and everything they can do to prepare for us for that) but I'd no doubt HATE HATE HATE having to go through the training...then again, maybe I'd eat that stuff up, miserable as it'd make me. Sometimes there's an aspect of gettin' off to being miserable.
Any of that make sense?
03-21-08, 12:10 PM #9
Boot Camp isnt really that bad. It is a miserable time but it is mostly all mental stress. The people who have a hard time are the ones who are extremely out of shape when they show up and the ones who have a hard time dealing with stress. I am not going to say its easy or a breeze, it is challenging but if you are in half-way decent shape and have a set of balls you will be just fine and laugh about it all when you are done. It is for sure something to e proud off. And in my opinion boot camp doesnt prepare you for combat at all. It makes basicaly trained Marines, It teaches you how to think and act like a Marine so you can be succesful with all your follow on training and schools and in the fleet. A huge portion of the Marines that graduate from Boot Camp will never do anything Combat related, sure they will go to Iraq but they will stay on a nice camp and do thier basic job there just like they would in the rear. The majority of preping for combat starts at SOI and once you are in the fleet you build upon that a great deal. But thats mainly in the Infantry and the rest of the Combat Arms(Tanks, Combat Engineers, AAV'S, LAV's, Arty) in the Division as thier sole job is training for Combat and they dont have to worry about other job related duties...thier job is combat. Other units with day to day jobs who support the combat units have alot on thier plate and are always extremely busy supporting the training that the combat units do and while they too take part in alot of thier own training in preperation for deployments it isnt as intense as the combat units. Alot of Marines where i come from dont give enough credit to those supporting units for all the hard hard work that they do in order to ensure that the mission can be accomplished.
But back to your main question i would say that for a person in shape the hardest part would be the stress. How hard the stress is depends on how good you are at dealing with it. If you are out of shape then you will have a seriously hard time with Boot Camp and bring alot more stress into your already stressful life as a recruit. Good luck man
03-21-08, 12:19 PM #10Originally Posted by david529
God save the Drill Instructors.
03-24-08, 11:22 AM #11
Well when you go through bootcamp and then fight not "serve" in a war and see combat firsthand you can form an educated opinion. The stress off bootcamp is designed to test your ability to think and react under stressful and intense situations. But the combat training aspect of Bootcamp is still extremely basic, hense why i said "basicaly trained Marines" It is a great building block for the future training you may or may not recieve at your unit to better prepare you for combat, but in my opinion which is based off of actual combat experiance, not the words of "my gunny the recruiter"(no offense to recruiters, ill probably be there myself soon) is that bootcamp while challenging and stressful does not prepare you for combat. It builds the foundations on which you will be trained for combat. And all that being said and done, nothing will ever fully prepare you for combat.
03-24-08, 01:42 PM #12Originally Posted by david529
03-24-08, 02:07 PM #13
I never thought anything could get lower than a recruit in Marine Corps Boot Camp, but after being on Leatherneck.com and reading some of the questions and posts by many of these poolees, I have put the poolees on the bottom of the ocean next to the whale ****. If this offends any of you poolees, thats the breaks of life. Its no wonder that after 7 years training recruits, I had to have 5 vessels replaced to my heart.
03-24-08, 06:00 PM #14
03-24-08, 10:37 PM #15
Originally Posted by Hologram
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