"I don't run democracy. I train troops to defend democracy
and I happen to be their surrogate father and mother as well as
their Commanding General."
- LtGen Alfred M Gray, US Marine Corps
Training days are a blur. From the moment you first arrive
at MCRD to the time that you are called a Marine, you are moved
at a pace that many people would find inhuman. Your average day
begins at around 0400-0630 depending on what is on the schedule.
You move around in what the DIs cheerfully refer to as "The Green
Classes make up a large part of the first phase of training.
From assembling your M-16, managing your money or the history
of the Marine Corps, you get crammed full of knowledge in a
short period of time.
Now another thing that you need to understand is that not
only are you on the move for a long period of time, you are
kept in relative ignorance of the outside world. What you know
about what is outside the area of MCRD is limited to letters
from home and what the DI feels the need to tell you (In other
We were sitting down for a Marine Corps History lesson.
The topic of the day was the Korean War. When the instructor
began, he was interrupted about 30 seconds into the lesson by
the arrival of our commanding officer. He came down, pulled
the teacher aside and whispered something into his ear.
"Well, recruits, it looks like your commanding officer needs
the floor." The CO was a big man. He looked as if he could break
the average recruit in half with little more than a harsh word.
In his hands was a manila envelope that he held up high. "I
have been authorized to read this to you by the Commanding General
of MCRD San Diego."
That got our attention. We listened silently as he began
to read from the paper.
"At 0430 this morning, Iraq launched another attack against
Kuwait. First Marine Division intercepted them. They have taken
approximately 4000 casualties. Bow your head in a moment of
silence." He let us do that for a few seconds. "You're done.
What this means to you is this: You will not be graduating in
August like you thought. You will remain here for two more weeks,
then going to Camp Pendleton for two weeks of Infantry Training."
At this point, the message that the CO was getting to was driving
home. Rather painfully.
"How many of you are Reservists?" Those of us who were raised
our hands. "From this moment, you are active duty. How many
of you are in an MOS (That's Military Occupational Specialty
for those of you not familiar with the term) that is not 0300
Infantry?" Again, those of us in that category raised our hands.
"From this moment on you are 0300 Infantry. Your Drill Instructors
are now your Platoon Sergeants. After your training at Camp
Pendleton, you will be sent to Kuwait as a part of the Casualty
Replacement Platoon. You will be allowed a five minute phone
call home to your families and you will be given time today
to write out your last will and testament."
He walked out and we began to have our lives flash through
our eyes (I even demanded a replay). After a few minutes of
allowing us to mull over what was going to happen to us, the
teacher announced that it was a hoax. The point was to give
us an idea of what recruits at the time of the Korean War were
going through when a similar announcement was made to them.
But for them, it wasn't a simulation. It may sound like
a horrid mind game, but it put what we train for in sharp focus