When you get to the San Diego airport, you are to report
to the liaison office to check in. You arrive at night which
adds to the eerie feeling of the beginning of the end. I got
there with three other people and we had an hour before we were
to check in. We went to find something to eat but the combination
of fear, expectation, and just plain excitement caused us all
to wander around in a daze. I felt like an escaped prisoner
who would be caught at any minute. It really made me look at
the people going about their normal routine in a different light.
I was about to enter bootcamp and it was just another night
at the airport for all of them. The warm weather and palm trees
were so alien and misleading because soon, this paradise would
turn sour. The time of reckoning had come.
The three of us got to the desk where a Corporal was waiting.
We approached him with apprehension and expected him to start
in on us immediately. We reported in the best way our little
civilian minds knew how to do it, from watching movies. The
Marine just kind of chuckled and had us fill out some paperwork
and then to get on the bus. Alas, he was not a drill instructor
but a bus driver. He treated us like cattle but at least he
did not have a branding iron! That treatment would come soon
We waited on the bus for what seemed like a long time.
Just as nervous male teenagers must do in a tense situation,
the joking began. Pretty soon everyone was yapping and horsing
around. And then IT happened. Suddenly, I saw the top of a smokey
hat shoot up the stairs to the bus and under it was a mean-looking
bastard with a voice to match.
"SHUT YOUR FILTHY SUCKS! I DON'T KNOW WHY I HEAR A BUNCH
OF NASTY CIVILIANS RUNNING THEIR SEWERS! YOU WILL SIT IN YOUR
SEAT WITH YOUR HANDS ON YOUR KNEES. YOU WILL SIT UP STRAIGHT
FACING FORWARD AND LOCK YOUR EYEBALLS ON THE BACK OF THE HEAD
OF THE PIG IN FRONT OF YOU! YOU WILL NOT MOVE."
As quickly as he came in, he was gone. There was not a
boy on that bus who even dared to disobey what was just explained
to him. We knew we had arrived. About ten minutes went by and
two more boys came aboard the bus. We were all like statues
and, unaware of the tongue-lashing we had just received, they
were still in the joking mode. They took a seat toward the front
and commenced to act just as we had acted before the DI had
exploded in. Everyone was too scared to even inform them of
the "rules." It was not long before I heard comments like "Geez,
lighten up. Why is everyone so uptight?" They continued to giggle
and make comments. As a result, I do not think I was alone in
relishing that DI coming back. We all knew they were playing
baseball with hand grenades and we all waited for the explosion.
We did not have to wait long.
When the DI returned, he did not know that these two clowns
were new, not that that would have mattered. So it appeared
to him that they were grab-assing in spite of the warning he
had given. What happened next was not very pretty. Picture a
hungry pitbull going after two wounded kittens. After the bloodbath,
the DI disappeared and all was quiet on the terror express.
I mean as quiet as I have ever heard it. The only sound I could
hear is my own heartbeat. An onlooker would think that the bus
was shipping mannequins. Even the two comedians up front were
in stealth mode. Especially the two comedians!!!
Without fanfare, the bus driver jumped on the bus, shut
the door, and drove off. The airport and the recruit depot share
a fence but it took about 10 minutes through traffic to get
to the depot. It was both the shortest and longest bus ride
of my life. You wanted time to get going in order to release
the expectation but you knew what was waiting for you at the
end of the bus ride. As we neared the main gate, the road went
down into a tunnel-like underpass. It reminded me of going into
the mouth of a monster. I was not far off because the other
side was the main gate.
Every set of recruits get to the depot at night. This is
to disorient the recruits and add to the psychological pressure.
It is believed that by bringing them in at night will discourage
anyone from knowing how to get away. It also ensures that the
recruits are awake all night which again, helps in the psychological
draining. You are tired and confused all night and for those
with too much spunk, the all-night initiation makes them easier
As the bus pulled up and stopped in front of the receiving
barracks, we were blind. There are bright lights that bathe
the bus in blinding spotlights and the DIs are standing in front
of them. The effect is the silhouetted forms of a herd of DIs.
They looked like faceless, black demons. The bus stopped and
here they came. They attacked the bus like wild animals. The
first one in started yelling beyond comprehension. The only
thing we knew for sure is that we should have already been off
the bus. In short order, we were propelled by the vicious verbal
onslaught and filed off the bus like prisoners out of a burning
jail. As I got to the doorway, I was greeted by the DI yelling
at me to go this way, that way, no way, every way!! I was escorted
to a set of yellow painted footprints and was told to stay there,
frozen, and I had absolutely no problem with that. I knew I
couldn't screw that up. I was wrong.
Things get hazy at this point. I remember that we got our
haircuts the moment we got into the building. I arrived with
a guy named Jason Long who I went to high school with. We were
not friends or anything but I remember he had long, blond curly
hair and he was over six feet tall. I caught a glimpse of him
with his head shaved and that was the only humorous moment during
receiving night. I knew that I looked just as ridiculous but
that was beside the point!
Next we got our issue of clothing. We stood in line and
we were herded from line to line. As we stood there with our
arms out, Marines would throw uniform items at us. When we went
through the line where we got our covers, they just put it on
our bald heads any which way. They would throw the cloths using
our faces as backboards. To this day, I get a funny feeling
when I smell new cammies. It brings back all of these "receiving"
After we crammed everything we had just been given into
a seabag, the paperwork started. Reams and reams of paperwork
done by the numbers while being yelled at. The hardest thing
was staying awake but the roving DIs made sure that we were
paying adequate attention to the admin staff. We were sitting
in cubicles painted with high gloss red paint. I remember trying
to see my reflection so that I could see what I looked like
without hair. I could see my outline but that was about it.
The seasoned DIs knew what I was doing and of course I was,
you guessed it, yelled at for it. It seems that the number one
act that the DIs kept yelling about was touching and rubbing
our bald heads. For some reason, when you get your head shaved,
it is human nature to keep rubbing it. I think this is because
at first it is numb. Then, after awhile, it becomes intriguing
to feel the skin on the top of your head because that portion
of your head has never before had direct tactile contact. Whatever
the reason, The DIs did not like it. But then again, they did
not like anything.
We were allowed about two hours of sleep that night and
then the receiving cycle began. The first few days are spent
on paperwork and administrative tasks. You are delivered to
your receiving DIs who run you through the moves and teach you
the most basic fundamentals in preparation for your permanent
DIs. This is so when the actual training cycle commences, you
have all of the in-processing work done and you know enough
about the basic fundamentals to start training. It is a shocking
introduction that no one who has been through it will ever forget
(no matter how hard they try).