"Eating the bitter bread of banishment."
Life in boot camp is well regimented. With every waking moment
you are told where to go, what to do and how to do something.
Some people think of this as brainwashing. In reality, all they
are doing is trying to make you grow up very quickly.
There are times that you screw up of course. No Recruit
is ever in the right no matter what the circumstances are. For
every recruit action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
Punishment can be tough and sometimes the actions of one person
will send the whole platoon into a fast paced exercise regimen.
For those who dislike that idea, you have to keep in mind something
very important: Boot Camp is designed to make a person a Marine.
Marine training is tough because we are put in very tough situations.
We have to be able to trust each and every person that we work
with. If you can't handle the stress that Boot Camp puts you
through, how can you expect to survive combat?
And with the stress that comes with training, there is at
least one person that can't handle it. They fight and try to
rebel and in the end, they just hurt themselves. Our Platoon
had Recruit Smith.
Smith was from a rather rich family. From what we knew of
him, he was having money problems and thought that joining the
Service was the best way to take care of those problems. Things
cleared up for him before he went to Boot Camp and he tried
to get out of his contract. But as anyone in the service can
tell you, getting out of your contract once you've signed the
papers and raised your right hand is the next best thing to
He could have made the choice to simply live with his decision.
Yes, he would have to be a Marine for four years but the time
goes a lot faster than you think. Rather than come to terms
with what he had signed up for, he chose to do everything in
his power to give up.
Marines are a persistent lot even when we are Recruits.
When one is falling behind it falls on the rest of us to make
sure that they make it (Especially because we are held accountable
for those that fall behind). Everyone in the Platoon tried to
counsel him. When that didn't work, the squad leaders and lay
leaders tried. When that didn't work, the Drill Instructors
tried. When that didn't work, the Company Gunny tried to help.
When that still failed, the Company First Sergeant tried. But
as determined as we were to get him through training, he was
more determined to get out. Our concern began to grow when we
made it to Pendleton for Rifle training. We didn't trust Smith
any farther than we could throw him and it was showing. We began
to grow very concerned about the fact that in a two weeks, he
was going to have live rounds in his rifle. Then one day in
our first week at Pendleton, he finally did the one thing that
sealed his fate.
He threatened the life of a Drill Instructor.
There are many things that can be forgiven and dealt with
in the Marine Corps. Making a statement that threatens someone
is nowhere on that list. Making a statement that threatens an
NCO or an Officer is even farther away from that.
Punishment was swift and decisive in this case. He was taken
away from us that weekend, and he found out first hand that
the Marine Corps believes in personal responsibility. And he
was offered a choice: Accept whatever punishment the Marine
Corps chose for him or take it to trial. If it had gone to trial,
he was facing serious jail time.
He chose to accept the punishment which was probably the
first smart thing he had done since coming to San Diego. But
it was not enough to face it in front of the CO and the First
Sergeant. He had to face it in front of the whole Company. It
was the first day we had at the Rifle Range when this happened.
We were told that there was a special little assembly going
on. All 200+ of us were out to witness Smith getting punished
by our Commanding Officer. The charges were read, it was explained
to us all what he had done and what his punishment would be.
He had to give up one month pay, he was given an Entry Level
Separation from the Corps and he was forbidden from ever serving
in the armed forces. He was dismissed and that was the last
we saw of him.
Then my Platoon, completely in disgrace over the actions
of one person, were taken to a little patch of sand where we
were thrashed for a good hour.
For the last few weeks of training he became little more
than a bad memory. It galled some of us that his picture was
in our yearbook, but we dealt with it. The only thing I can
hope is that he learned something from his time in Boot Camp.