Platoon 3075 had a three-man team of drill instructors consisting
of the leader, Senior Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Wertjes,
the teacher, Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant
Garcia, and the heavy, Drill Instructor Sergeant Robinson.
All had their respective roles which sometimes bled over into
each other's but mainly, they had their own missions.
Senior Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Wertjes was our daddy.
I say that unashamedly because that was his role. He was the
man we were made to hold in the highest regard and whose approval
we sought above all else. At first, he was no more than one
of the demons that made our lives unlivable but that soon changed.
He never coddled us but simply did not harass us as much as
the other two. He was firm, fair, and intense. He would put
you in your place but for a variety of reasons, not the least
of which was the respect the other drill instructors showed
him, he became the man we most wanted to be.
When he introduced himself to us, after returning from "The
Moment," he told us the first of many inspiring promises
that he kept during our three-month stay on MCRD. He told us
that he would train us to the best of his ability and that he
would never do so by physical abuse. He stated that neither
he nor any one of his drill instructors would ever hit any one
of us and that if it happened, to come straight to him. This
came as a shock to some of us because we did not know the rules
against physical abuse. Like the majority of Americans, we thought
that physical abuse was part of the training and fully expected
to be knocked around on a regular basis. In fact, a lot of us
were wondering why we had not been knocked around up to the
point when the stress level was so high in receiving. Senior
Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Wertjes set the record straight
and true to his promise, no abuse took place. Well, no physical
abuse. We were recruits, after all.
The very worst situation you could possible fathom in boot
camp was letting down your senior drill instructor. The thrashing
and yelling, we got used to because it happened on a daily basis.
But to think that your senior was disappointed in you was a
weight that was hard to shoulder. I think that some did not
mind but those were the ones that this training was wasted on.
Overall, the approval of the senior was the reward itself.
Many lessons I have written about revolve around Senior
Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Wertjes and for good reason.
He was the man that lost his temper ( and his smokey) at Private
Alejos in "The Flat Top Story." He
was the man whose kindness was callously thrown back at him
in "The M&M Story." He was the man
who taught me about integrity and fairness in "The
Pepsi Story." But most of all, this man taught me that in
the midst of chaos, you can been kind without giving up your
intensity or stepping out of your mission role. He was never
my "buddy" but he always provided me with a positive role model
of the ideal Marine. For this, I will be forever grateful.
There is a great update to this story. Read about Sergeant