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Leaving For Boot Camp…Three Years Ago

(Three years ago today, Holly took the first step in earning the title of United States Marine. This is a look back at that day.)

Early on a June morning, Sue and I took Holly to the MEPS station from where she would ship out for boot camp at Parris Island.

I was a bit concerned, as the MEPS station was over two hours away, that Holly would get nervous and perhaps start to second-guess her decision about joining the Corps.

Little did we realize at the time that the only ones in the car who were stressed out were Sue and I.

We arrived at MEPS, and the old adage about the military “hurry up and wait” started to kick in.

Sue and I sat around with a group of other parents as Holly, along with dozens of other young men and women, went through the processing steps that would lead from them changing from civilians to members of America’s armed forces.

A quick lunch break, then it was back to more waiting.

Then it was time to take the Oath Of Enlistment.

Of course we took a few more pictures.

It seemed like it was taking forever for the bus that would take our daughter and the other recruits to Parris Island to arrive, then all of a sudden there it was.
(It turned out that Holly was the only female on the bus.)

Then it was time to say our goodbyes.
This image was burned into our brain, as it was the last we saw of our future Marine for 13 weeks.

Sue and I watched as the bus taking our daughter to Marine Corps boot camp pulled away.

Then we began the walk back to our car, the drive home (which seemed much longer), and the even longer wait for the phone call from Holly letting us know that she had arrived at Parris Island.

Making Marines: The Armory

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – The relationship between a Marine and his or her rifle begins when a depot armorer hands a brand-new recruit their M16. This is how the depot armorers contribute to the mission of making Marines.

During initial issue, the recruits are handed all the parts of the weapon, as well as rifle-cleaning equipment, a sling and magazines.
“Part of the reason [the armory] is important is because this is the first time a lot of recruits have ever handled a weapon,” explained 40-year-old Master Sgt. Jason Armstrong, depot ordnance chief. “They get the rifles issued here, and they carry them around for three months.”

The depot armory holds about 12,000 M16-A4 service rifles, most of which stay inspection ready, and about 600 rifles are issued weekly.

“The Marines tell the recruits about the weapons while they issue them,” said Armstrong, of Richfield, Idaho. “They tell them how to clean and take care of it, as well as how to assemble and disassemble the weapon.”

The rifles are also issued to depot permanent personnel for annual training.

Armstrong said although most Marines only see armory personnel issuing weapons at the window, the armorers take care of a wide range of tasks behind the scenes. The Marines working at the armory often find themselves arriving at their workplace as early as 4:30 a.m.

“What happens inside is where we count, repair and inspect all the weapons for the depot,” Armstrong explained. “We’ve got it broken up into different sections, like Marines who go out to the ranges, Marines who issue weapons and Marines who repair weapons.”

There could be up to five platoons of 80 recruits in one day to meet their rifles or part with them.

“It makes me feel like I have an important part in the Marine Corps,” said 23-year-old Lance Cpl. Jose Rodriguez, an armorer. “They’ll always remember how to carry and manage the weapon.”

Rodriguez, from Chicago, regularly works in the issuing and receiving section in the sentry-guarded building, and often teaches the Corps’ newest members what they hold in their hands.

“Every Marine remembers boot camp – they might not remember my name or face, but they’ll always remember what I taught them,” he said.

Story by Lance Cpl. Javarre Glanton

Female Recruits Train To Be Warriors

– Parris Island is the only place where women are trained to become enlisted Marines and they undergo the same training men do here.

Throughout the 13 weeks of recruit training, there are major training events that complete the transformation – becoming a human weapon is one of them.

From the first few training days until Training Day 22 recruits earn their tan belts in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. Tan belt is the first rung on the ladder of MCMAP, and the training teaches recruits the basics of the program.

“Not only do we want them to know the techniques but we teach them Marine values,” said Staff Sgt. Michelle Baerman, a brown belt MCMAP instructor and drill instructor with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion. “Not only are you a martial artists, but you’re well-rounded warriors.”

The 27-year-old Keokuk, Iowa native strives to teach her recruits to be able to take on any opponent. Teaching MCMAP to female recruits can be challenging, she explained.

“Since they’re females, their biggest obstacle is usually the stereotype of being defenseless. I tell them that they’re going to be able to take on anybody and that nobody can mess with them now,” Baerman said. “It doesn’t matter how big or strong your enemy is – you have to be able to take on any kind of opponent.”

The recruits learn the techniques through demonstration and repetition.

“Most kids this generation aren’t used to staying on their feet very long and we’re making them kick over and over again,” Baerman said.

“We’re preparing them for war, and they can protect themselves now,” she added.

Baerman stresses endurance, muscular strength and the need for recruits to build reaction time, all through a great deal of preactice so the techniques become like second nature.

“I teach females the same way that I teach males,” Baerman said. “There’s one way to learn and I instruct that way.”

Lance Cpl. Javarre Glanton

Marine Recruits Get Warrior Intensity

MCRD San Diego

From the crucible to drill, everything a recruit is asked to do is for a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is revealed by their drill instructors and sometimes it is left up to the recruit to figure out and understand. Recently Recruits of Company H, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, were told to run through a bayonet assault course and afterwards enter a ring for a pugil stick fight.

Prior to the pugil sticks exercise SSgt Leon S. Parker, staff non-commissioned officer in charge of Martial Arts Satellite School, Instructional Training Company, Support Battalion, taught Co. H recruits how to properly use the bayonet.

However before having them practice and run through the assault course he talked to recruits about the importance of utilizing every bit of recruit training. He compared recruit training to receiving free money and explained that just like we would be sure to value and appreciate every dollar we should take advantage of every opportunity recruit training provides.

“By utilizing every second of recruit training you are becoming a warrior,” said Parker. “Imagine someone gave you $86,400, with the catch of you having to spend it by noon the next day. Just like you could account for every one of those dollars you have to account for every second in the day.”

Dozens of plastic bayonets pointed to the sky like an angry mob waiting to attack. However it may appear, the recruits with bayonets were being introduced to close quarter combat skills.

Once recruits of Company H were given a demonstration of how to run through the bayonet assault course they were lined up behind a wooden wall and sent through the exercise in groups of three aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

Shouting from start to finish, the recruits carried their plastic weapons in and out of trenches, slashed tires and shouted combat rushing commands to fellow recruits.

The bayonet assault course did not last long but the intensity and speed at which it was completed made five minutes look like 25. Recruits finished out of breath and drenched with sweat.

After a quick cool down, rifles were put down and helmets, protective armor and pugil sticks were picked up. Recruits circled a ring awaiting their turn. Although hardly a word was said by recruits the non verbal communication was apparent each time a recruit was pegged with a direct hit.

Drill instructors shouted at recruits encouraging them to be more aggressive. Excitement could be heard in their voices as they tried to squeeze maximum effort out of each recruit.

For many Co. H recruits, getting in a ring with protective gear and being told to attack a fellow recruit with a padded stick was the first fight of their lives.

“I’ve never been in a fight,” said Recruit Alex M. Moser, Platoon 2161, Co. H. “Pugil sticks was a first for me and it was kind of hard to fight with gear wrapped on like a diaper. It was fun though and I definitely would want to do it again. You can only learn so much from video games and movies.”

In the ring there are two major rules. One – if a recruit is down it means the end of the match and two – a direct hit to the head is considered a kill shot.

Two-by-two recruits took turns punishing each other. Some recruits approached the fight timid and cautious while others attacked like rabid dogs as if born for it. Recruits banged away at shoulders and blocked thrusts like a sword fight. Helmets let out a crack when hit.

“I think it’s important to have this experience because you have to get over getting hurt and get over the fear of getting into contact with somebody,” said Recruit Gustavo A. Argueta, Plt. 2161, Co. H. “I’d like to see it a little longer and with take downs involved. It would add to the experience.”

Cpl Walter D. Marino II

Making Marines: Bucket Issue

During the second day of recruit training, after a long night of crude introductions to the boot-camp lifestyle, brand new recruits make a trip to bucket issue where they are issued the gear essentials they will use for the entirety of training.

The 22 items they receive quickly become essential to their new lifestyle as events like field training, marksmanship training and even drinking water are reliant on their equipment.

“We show each item to the group of recruits, explain what it is and have them repeat it back to us,” said Cpl. Yolanda Torres, a warehouse non-commissioned officer. “A lot of recruits are clueless as to what we’re explaining because they haven’t slept yet and they’re intimidated by everything that’s been going on.
“I try to relay to them that without this gear, a lot of training wouldn’t be able to be done.”

Some of the issued equipment includes canteens, assault packs, sleeping systems, cartridge belts, and their Improved Load Bearing Equipment packs.

In the past, each recruit was handed a bucket with essential items for training. Even though the issue point owes its name to this tradition, they no longer supply buckets to recruits.

“Back then, the buckets were also used for all sorts of things,” said Stephen Wise, curator for the Parris Island Museum. Recruits might use them for cleaning, storing items or they might have to fill them with sand and exercise with the buckets as a punishment, he said.

Today, the warehouse personnel issue various pieces of equipment to recruits, depot Marines, and Drill Instructor School students almost on a daily basis.

During times of little patronage, the warehouse staff often takes account of all the items in the warehouse and inventories the gear.
“A lot of Marines don’t realize how much work really goes into this job because all they see is the recruit-issue aspect,” explained the 21 year old Marine from Chicago. “We also have to process gear for graduating Marines, DI School students, inventory, and we do daily gear exchanges.”

The bucket issue staff also has to perform a wall-to-wall inventory of the warehouse every three months.

Bucket issue, made up of two adjacent warehouses, harbors all the equipment to meet the depot’s needs.

“It makes me proud and it motivates me every day to come to work knowing that I play a part in recruit training,” she added. “Not only do you get to see them when they first get here, we see them as Marines returning their gear.

“The most rewarding part of our job is being able to see the growth they’ve made.”

Lance Cpl. Javarre Glanton

A Drill Instructor’s Story

It’s 0327 — Why am I here?
Why am I not in bed like everyone else, dead to the world?
Why do I do this?

I live with the constant pain, headaches and suffering… the sacrifice… why?


Because pain tells me I’m awake… It reminds me that I’m alive.

Who am I?

I’m the wrecker of bodies, the crusher of mediocrity.
I am the face of destiny.
I am a Marine Corps Drill Instructor.

I raised my right hand and gave our Pledge:


It starts here but this is just one journey amongst many. It just started…

We begin today…
13 weeks in this dark hole…
91 days of pain…
2184 hours of hunger and desire.

I’m already counting the minutes and the seconds.

When it’s over, I’ll send these hogs into the light as Marines…
Into the Fleet Marine Force…
They WILL shine.

It’s about making Marines, plain and simple.

I will not do it alone.
I’ll do it with my brothers in belts and covers
Who lay it on the line every day just like me.
We will bring the heat – together – for a common purpose…
Making Marines.

If I stay anonymous to you, I DON’T GIVE A DAMN…that’s fine.
But I won’t be anonymous to them…
To THEM — the Marines we made.
So that they can carry the Corps into the future.

Until then we’ll live in the shadows, the darkness…
In a place few will ever see,
Where ugliness becomes beautiful.
This place, this darkness…
This is where the real work gets done.

If you’re with me, get that belt, get that cover and punch the clock;
It’s gonna be a long, wild, havoc filled ride.
Be prepared to get your hands dirty…

Listen… Hear that silence?
In a few minutes, we’re gonna destroy it.
Let’s get this show on the damn road…
Let’s throw some recruits into the fire…
If you’re not with us, get the hell out of the way…


Gunnery Sgt Terence A. D’Alesandro
Marines Blog

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