Few things in bootcamp are pleasurable. No candy, no coffee,
no soda, no ice cream, no nothing! So when given the opportunity,
the opportunist loses discipline and being a young kid, I fell
into this trap.
We were out on the rifle range during the second phase.
I was spared the treachery of working the butts, or the target
area. If you had to work the butts, it lived up to its name.
All day you would raise and lower targets for another set of
recruits and mark their shots. It was a high pressure area where
rounds were coming down range and none of the men in charge
had any patience for anything. You were considered pond scum
and usually expectations were self-fulfilling prophesies. In
short, it really sucked. I have worked butts since and it was
bad even as a Marine. As a recruit, God help you.
I was chosen to be the ammo private. This meant that I
had the responsibility to distribute rounds to each shooting
area. It was an easy job and I was spared the dreaded trenches
of the butts. Scoring high on the ASVAB had its high points.
They needed someone with something upstairs and I was amazed
that such a simple task was beyond some of the other privates.
What I had in book smarts soon ran face to face to the common
sense I lacked.
I was told to go get more ammo from the ammo shed. So I
picked up my rifle and, like a good little recruit, scurried
over to the ammo shed where there were four Marines inside.
They were all black and sitting around rather lazily. As a recruit
you are very keen to the things that the drill instructors would
kill you for doing. These large, sweating, sloppy-looking Marines
were obviously not drill instructors but to a recruit, they
were not to be treated casually. I popped to attention and reported
smartly. They all looked at me like I was from another planet.
At that point, I was.
"Sir, Private Grose, Platoon 3075, reporting to the ammunition
shed as ordered, Sir!"
To my surprise, one of them replied: "Hey, calm down. We're
not gonna hassle you. What do you need?"
Not thwarted from my rigid mentality, I answered, "Sir, this
private has been ordered to get some more ammunition."
The Marine continued, "That's fine, but settle down. Where
are you from?" Feeling a little better, I eased up and said,
"Seattle, Washington.....Sir." As he continued to talk, I continued
to be at ease. Finally, someone who treated me like a human
being. The others were talking amongst themselves and ignoring
the conversation. Finally, one of them asked, "Do you want a
With my defenses down, I automatically responded, "Sure!"
Suddenly, a supernova exploded before my eyes. All four of them
leapt to their feet and started in. Instantly, I was locked
at the position of attention.
"OH, I SEE. YOU WANT A PEPSI. WELL ISN'T THAT INTERESTING.
YOU WOULD SIT HERE AND DRINK PEPSI ALL DAY WHILE YOUR BUDDIES
ARE SWEATIN' IT OUT IN THE BUTTS AND ON THE FIRING LINE. YOU'RE
PROBABLY THE SAME GUY WHO WOULD ACCEPT A HANDFUL OF RICE FROM
THE ENEMY WHILE THE REST OF YOUR PLATOON WAS STARVING. YOU GO
BACK TO YOUR SENIOR AND TELL HIM WHAT YOU DID!"
I felt like hell. First, I was mad at being suckered into
that situation. But most of all, I was mad that I would have
accepted that Pepsi. They were right to chew me out but one
thing has always bothered me. While in bootcamp, you are subjected
to the wrath of your drill instructors. You come to realize
that they know exactly what they are doing and they are good
at it. But in bootcamp, you also come across a lot of Marines
that are support staff such as cooks and admin personnel. For
them to take advantage of the situation and play drill instructor
on you is unjust. They have neither the right nor the training
to mess with you so those that do are forever looked at as assholes.
I have never been a drill instructor but I have been back
to San Diego a few times. I have run across recruits and as
a sergeant, my mere existence scared them silly. But never once
did I take advantage of that and bait them. They no more deserve
that treatment from me that I deserved as a private. So to those
four Marines I say, thank you for the lesson. Thank you for
chewing me out and showing me what NOT to do to privates. I
will remember it throughout the rest of my career.
In case you are wondering, I did tell my Senior even though
he would have never found out otherwise. That was not the motivation.
I wanted to tell him. When I did, I could only see him in my
peripheral vision (I was at attention and he was sitting). He
could have tore me a new one or even let loose SGT Robinson
on me. But he just sat there for a moment. He then asked "Did
you learn from it?" I assured him that I did and he said "Don't
let it happen again. Now get the hell out of here."
I was in utter shock. I was sure he would have me for dinner.
At that moment, I respected him more than anyone I had ever
met. I think he knew exactly what happened and he knew that
I chose to tell him. That is when I knew that I was truly in