When exercise becomes emotional
The initial strength test marks the beginning of their physical capability in the Corps. Friday morning, probably before most of you were out of bed, Golf Company recruits were lined up platoon by platoon to show they have what it takes to begin training.
You would never imagine how terrifying this day can be, especially for those who can barely make the cut. The pressure is on from the very first speech that summarizes every detail on performing the exercise correctly. The IST consists of running, pull-ups and crunches. As training goes on, this test continues to get harder and will be known as the Physical Fitness Test (PFT).
After observing the recruits, the tension in their expressions was strikingly noticeable. I am assuming it was because they knew that everything they have completed up until now could all be put on hold if they didn’t pass each event.
I know I didn’t mention this before, but your recruits can be dropped from training before ever making it to “training.” I guess I was trying to save you some sleep at night, but good news is, only one recruit was dropped to another company (You would know by now if this was your recruit, so you can stop freaking out).
The recruits probably won’t remember this, but their Senior Drill Instructors actually show up for this portion to get a look at who they will be training. The first DIs they actually met from receiving are not the same DIs that will train them for 12 weeks.
Anyway, DIs have an eye for dedication and drive. Why is that important? Because that 1 dropped recruit could have been 8.
Believe it or not, drill Instructors don’t want your sons to fail — they’d rather have them excel. And here is proof: eight recruits actually failed the IST. The SDI can keep recruits that they believe can improve in a short amount of time, and the commander will sign a waiver for them.
The Wolves are at the Door
The best way for you to understand Black Friday is for me to compare it to a hurricane. I picked this natural disaster because those who have never experienced one really don’t know the damage it can do. Hurricanes can produce tornados, extremely high-tides and flooding. It’s an all-for-one natural disaster. By the time it’s over, it can leave people mentally and physically exhausted.
Receiving, the days leading to pick-up, can be thought of as the calm before the storm. During this time, things can get hectic preparing for what’s about to come, but overall it’s a waiting game until what, or who, is about to make landfall.
Finally, the recruits are ready to make it to their squad bay, a very large open room with bunk beds. For the next 12 weeks, they will call this area “home.” It will be a long time before it actually feels that way.
I observed every recruit enter their house. They were all beside themselves, kind of like lost dogs; they wouldn’t look at you if you paid them to, trying to stay out of trouble. As a matter of fact, they wouldn’t look at anything that wasn’t straight forward. More than half of them forgot how to walk as they tripped over their own feet and each other as they missed the step up to the walkway. It seemed as if they had been stripped of their abilities to think and act on their own.
After making head calls, or more commonly known as the bathroom, they were seated on the deck (floor), covered and aligned to the person in front of them and the person to their right. They were only moments away from meeting the makers of Marines they will never forget.
The chief drill instructor gives them a quick brief before the series commander gives the SDI the command to train them into the few, the proud, the Marines.
The storm finally hits. The noise alone is enough to make you want to leave. Almost 90 recruits yell at the top of their lungs, but it will never be loud enough. Drill instructors run up and down the squad bay like cheetahs on prey. Gear is everywhere as if a tornado ripped through middle, leaving only a path of despair. And just when you think it’s over, you realize you’re only in the eye of the storm. All they can do is just stand tall because what just happened is going to happen all over again.
The day was long, but a lot was learned from the experience. Teamwork was probably the most important. If they never believed that two heads are better than one, they do now.
Over this weekend, the house stayed pretty quite as far as training goes. Simple knowledge is learned about getting on line, standing fire watch, counting off, house procedures, etc. Sunday they will have the opportunity to partake in religious services.
Free time will be awarded on Training Day 1, this is their time to write letters home. Keep your fingers crossed.
Did you know that Drill Instructors have a belt structure to abide by? Black shiny belts distinguish Senior Drill Instructors, while the other drill instructors wear green belts with gold buckles.
The Senior Drill Instructor is in charge of all the drill instructors within his platoon. He will most likely give his commands to the “J.” The J (which stands for junior) will pass the command to the 3rd and 4th hat.
So in their structure in a nutshell: The senior, then the J, then the 3rd hat, followed by the 4th.
When your recruits write you, they may only mention their senior as their senior. Everyone else will probably be described as: mean, meaner and meanest.
Today the recruits are issued rifles. Sometime during training, they may be required to memorize the rifleman’s creed. Check it out for yourself.
Just another side note
For the parent who’s recruit was dropped: Don’t sweat it. So you think it’s unfair that your son was dropped. I understand where you are coming from. However, in my opinion (and though you may not agree now) they are actually doing that recruit a favor. This extra time spent improving his physical fitness will put him ahead of his peers when he picks up again. AND because he will already know the process, there is a good chance he could start off as the guide. I am sure you will send him some encouraging words, as he probably needs those now more then ever.
[Editors Note: Opinions expressed are not to be considered an official expression of the DoD, DoN, or the USMC.]