Catch Part 1 here in case you missed it.
“FIRE FIRE FIRE!!! GET OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW!!!!!” Yelled an irate Petty Officer Garza. We all were in a daze and extremely confused as to what was happened but all repeated in unison, “FIRE FIRE FRE!” as we scrabbled to get our go fasters (sneakers) on and get outside in the bitter cold of an early Cape May morning at 0530. We started every morning in boot camp like this right up until the day we graduated. Ass kicking’s were handed out generously since we all just sucked so much.
Outside we’d get into formation, five recruits wide, by however many deep. The numbers were always changing because of recruits being reverted, or dropping out from basic training. From there the company Yeoman would take muster and yell out our roster order number. I would listen so intently so I would not forget to shout out “five six Aye!” other wise I would get absolutely destroyed for a lack of attention to detail. People, believe it or not, had a hard time counting and remember when to yell out their number. It’s comical now thinking back to how we had a hard time with counting from 01 (you would always speak the digits out like zero, one) to 121, but hey we were stressed out beyond belief.
After roll call it was always, “Find some real estate! Push up position take!” And we’d find ourselves a spot on the concrete in front of Munro Hall and get down into a push up position awaiting our morning ass kicking. From there we’d do push ups, sit ups, flutter kicks, supermans, squats, and a bunch of other work outs before we were told to go upstairs and be on line in main muster squad bay in one zero minutes after a head and water break. These head and water breaks became our saving graces as recruits. It was ten minutes of our day that we weren’t bothered or haggled. We could finally take a leak or pump a dump as the CC’s would say and feel normal again. After we’d have a little “us” time we’d go into the main squadbay where we would wait nervously at the position of attention awaiting further instruction.
It’s funny really at how little of your own thinking you do in boot camp. You are told where and when to be at all times and marched around under the extremely careful eye of a company commander who is ready to destroy you mentally and physically should you be ever so slightly out of step.
Sunday was a monumental break. This is because Sunday’s was when the Church Pennant would be flying from the flag pole from 0800-1300. We were more or less off limits. We weren’t allowed to just do whatever we wanted by any means. We simply weren’t incentivly trained during these hours and we were allowed to write letters home, iron our uniforms, shine our boots, etc. We would be marched to lunch, and then back to the squad bays to resume “holiday routine.” You bet we started our mornings with a bull horn or air horn followed by fire, fire, fire to get our asses out of bed but after morning chow, and 0800 rolled around, the entire company would breathe a collective sigh of relief. How sweet those five hours were. I am sure that the CC’s really loved them too because they could kind of turn off the yelling and insanity for a moment. Or they’d just watch us become such a pile of worthless shit that the anger would stew so when 1301 happened, they would utterly destroy us. All too often the latter happened.
Weeks two and three are a very large blur simply because of the amount of stress the CC’s put us under. We did have a couple of recruits simply quit, and another truly snap. He went into the head and made remarks of hurting himself, and then proceeded to smash his head with a stall door repeatedly until two other recruits intervened and got him help from the CC’s. We had to have a sit down with our Lead Company Commander to which he basically said, “The only we don’t control here is the weather. Everything else is controlled. We will not hurt you, the stress is artificial.” For whatever reason, this bargaining or justification for all the mayhem just didn’t set in. We were all in the zombie like daze where we knew that if we made the slightest mistake we would get hooked up on the quarter deck and just obliterated.
The first two weeks of recruit training involved a monumental amount of incentive training to break us down and to start the rebuilding process of making us well-disciplined, and capably trained apprentices to send out to the fleet. There was also an insane amount of class room training. Rates and ranks, how to address senior officers, UCMJ, seamanship, helm and look out, all sorts of stuff just crammed in a very short period of time. I really don’t remember my first few classes at all! My brain hit the erase button on it all. The stress level was just through the roof.
We would spend hours marching and learing close order drill, as well as, manual of arms. When we got our pieces, old M1’s that had the firing pin removed and the barrels filled with lead, we began to feel like we belonged. The company was finally coming together, we were beginning to work as a team, and we felt bad ass marching around the regiment with our pieces at right shoulder arms, showing off how kick ass we were and asserting dominance over the junior companies. Ten foot tall and bullet proof as Petty Officer Bailey would say.
But we had no idea that we would also learn about sniper position. Dear God. We would be crammed onto the quarter-deck like sardines sitting indian style sighted in, pointed at the ceiling, for hours. Petty Officer Garza would play the most patriotic country music while we would whimper from our backs and shoulders hurting from holding a nine pound rifle up for an hour straight. One night he really cut into us. We really were a “bag of smashed assholes” as he would say. He started playing a song about Vietnam, and began talking about his dad. He stood there on the desk looking over all of us telling us all how useless we were and how ungrateful we were as young men and women growing up in America. Come to learn through his tirade, his father served in Vietnam. On his second deployment to Vietnam his father got blown up, literally, and survived. Petty Officer Garza then told us how his father, who was a captain in the Marine Corps, wanted to immediately go back to the battle field and not leave his men even though he was bleeding from shrapnel wounds all over his body. Garza’s dad volunteered to go back to Vietnam for a third time and after fighting with the Marine Corps he succeeded in serving a third time. Petty Officer Garza’s dad also got his third purple heart while serving on his third deployment.
I sat there with my eyes welling up in just aw at who this man’s father was. He was a true patriot who was willing to get injured over and over again for this nation and was so willing to die for it. Garza finished his story talking about when his father passed, he had to fight to get him buried at Arlington National Cemetary because a vital piece of documentation was lost when his father got out of the Marine Corps. The nation his father so desperately served and protected, almost didn’t allow him to be buried in the most beautiful hallowed grounds of this nation. Petty Officer Garza was right, we were ungrateful and we had no idea what it meant to serve or be apart of the military.
But we were beginning to learn and come together even more. We were becoming Delta 186.
Please check back for part 3. Thank you!